Thursday, September 25, 2014
Charlotte or Charley?
Riding Freedom by Pam Munoz Ryan is about a girl named Charlotte trying to survive in the harsh west country with her love of horses and her friends Hayward and Vern to spur her on.
Charlotte was born "In the mid-eighteen hundreds, when the East was young and the West was yet to be settled" (p.2). She grew up in an orphanage where life was really tough. So she ran away but in order to survive during a time when women had no rights, she dressed up as a boy. "Charley" ended up working for Ebenezer who took "him" in as his own child.
Freedom was a horse at the orphanage, and Charlotte loved and cared for her until she died. Freedom's spirit stayed with Charlotte and helped her overcome many challenges. In the end Charlotte was able to fulfill her dream of having her own ranch. She named a new colt "Freedom", which for Charlotte, stands for her very own freedom.
The book is set during the Gold Rush, and is based on the life of a real "whip" (stage coach driver), Charley Darkey Parkhurst, or "One-eyed Charley". No one knew until "his" death that Charley was in fact a woman! Charley may have been the very first woman to have voted at a U.S. presidential election.
I love Brian Selznick's illustrations which give a very realistic feel to the book. My favourite part of the book is when Charlotte ran away from the orphanage. I also liked the part when Ebenezer challenged Charlotte to drive a 6-horse stage coach. I think "Charley" is an amazing person because she was able to do seemingly impossible things like driving a stage coach and living as a man in the old west. That must have been wild!