Rough, Tough Charley
By Verla Kay, illustrated by Adam Gustavson
Tricycle Press, 2007
The story opens to a runaway orphan hiding in a barn. The farmer decides if the boy wants to sleep in the barn, then maybe he can be of help, and offers him to stay on. Among other things, the boy becomes a stagecoach driver, known for his bravery. Written in Verla Kay’s tight verse, coupled with Adam Gustavson’s detailed illustrations, it’s an easy, yet fascinating, read of a life in the 1800’s.
As he gets older, Charley retires, buys a house, votes and does all the things a man of his time would do. After Charley passes, the doctor only then discovers: he is a she! Quite the surprise to the reader—a surprise that lingers. I, probably like most readers, went back and studied the illustrations to see if I could tell ‘he’ was a ‘she’. (I couldn’t.)