Title: Whatever Happened to the Pony Express?
Author: Verla Kay
Illustrator: Kimberly Bulcken Root & Barry Root
Publisher: G. P. Putnam's Sons
Concepts: public services, economic development
Review: Benjamin Franklin made many important contributions to society, including improved organization of the colonies' postal service when he assumed the role of the first Postmaster General. Even then, mail delivery by wagon took a long time, and the introduction of water routes, stagecoaches, and even camels to deliver mail did not help to speed things up very much.
Postal delivery times in the west remained particularly slow until the introduction of the Pony Express in 1860. All of a sudden people could send mail to and from the west coast in ten days, half the time it took a stagecoach. Well-paid riders who carried the mail in lightweight pouches switched to a fresh horse at Pony Express depots every ten to fifteen miles, all the way from Missouri to California. The Pony Express operated for a year and a half, up until the completion of telegraph lines across the country that allowed people to send instant messages in Morse code.
This interesting historical account is conveyed to children through simple verse and dynamic gouache and watercolor paintings, with an informative author's note to provide more of the details. Parents and teachers will find this book a useful resource for discussing with children the role of public services and how the postal service in particular evolved over time.
Review by: Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children