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Kirkus Reviews – starred review:
Seely’s evocative writing has a flair for the vivid simile and seamlessly weaves a wealth of information about the prairie into this story of a boy who must overcome his ‘halfway feeling’ between the two lives he has known. The characters ring true, and the author does not shy away from the seamier sides of cowboy life, including the brothel in the dark alley behind the saloon. . . . An excellent coming-of-age story and a must for collections on prairies, cowboy life, and westward expansion after the Civil War.”

School Library Journal -- starred review:
ïð“With just enough whining, sibling jealousy, and confused emotions, the first-person narrative has the genuine voice of a 13-year-old boy. Mixing humor with hardship gives the story a balance that pulls readers on to the next chapter, knowing that Thomas will choose to stay with his father rather than return to Virginia. In using her great-grandfather as inspiration plus an excellent list of primary and secondary sources, the author has created a fine historical novel that will satisfy those curious about the 1880s, as well as those looking for adventure.”

“Seely's gentle prose invites readers to languish through the chapters. Like the landscape she describes, the story is quiet, broad, and sweeping, and her weatherworn characters embrace their lives and struggles with much fortitude and no sentimentality. Her grasp of a male point of view is firm, and her depiction of even the harshest of characters is underscored by compassionate understanding of the tenacity demanded by the barren land.”



Grasslands was a finalist for the 2002 Western Writers of America Spur Award. It made Bank Street’s List of Best Children’s Books for 2003 and won the Society of Midland Authors award for juvenile fiction.


The Last of the Roundup Boys

Kirkus Reviews:
It's a familliar story: pretty, rich farmer's daughter falling for the hired hand.  Evie Parsons wants to run her father's farm some day, which is unlikely; women don't run farms in Kansas in 1886.  Seventeen-year-old Tom Hunter, son of a poor farmer, is hired to work the Parsons' cattle ranch.  Seely's clear writing, lively dialogue, and fully realized historical context give vigor to what might have been a tired tale.  Women's rights, the legacy of slavery, tension between cattlemen, railroad men, and farmers, and class differences are the backdrop to the iffy romance between Tom and Evie.  Though the cover will have readers thinking this is simply a romance, it is a story with substance, and readers will want to go back and read its companion, Grasslands (2002), which tells Tom's story prior to coming out to Kansas.

Here is a blade's-eye view of the kind of grass that grows wild on the Kansas prairie.  There are many different kinds, with evocative names --  bluestem, Indian grass, grama grass, buffalo grass, sand reedgrass, saltgrass.  Not your everyday lawn!


copyright © 2003-2004 Debra Seely

Jacket art for Grasslands copyright © 2002 by James E. Ransome
Jacket art for The Last of the Roundup Boys copyright © 2004 Greg Spalenka
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