The Horn Book

Texas boasts as many tall tales as there are fleas on a hound dog, but listeners will have to venture far afield to find one more engaging than Isaacs’s latest. The newly widowed Tulip Jones inherits thirty-five million dollars and a ranch in By-Golly Gully, Texas. With her twelve pet tortoises and three (lady) ranch hands, she sets up farming. Little does she know that everything grows bigger in Texas, including tortoises, potatoes that “took only seven of them to make a dozen,” and a “single watermelon [that] fed everyone on the ranch for a month.” The colored-pencil and acrylic illustrations in sunbaked Texas tones complement Isaacs’s hyperbole. Tulip changes her demure dress for flattering Western wear, including a rose-topped Stetson, and gallops her now-saddled tortoises across the prairie; the ranch hands climb ladders to saw off huge tomatoes. But a passel of trouble looms. Every single man in Texas, which in 1870 meant every man in Texas, wants her money, and they all descend on the ranch seeking her hand in marriage. The Widow Jones must get rid of these odious gold diggers. She devises three trials for the suitors; meanwhile, the ranch hands, also hoping to distract the men, invite all unmarried women to come get hitched. These two madcap story lines converge, but not before listeners have plenty of opportunities to join in with choruses of “meanwhile” and curses of “Riprocious!”