New York Times

Tarnation! Seems like a mule's age since we've had a hero of American folklore worth wasting song and spit over, someone big enough to wear the boots of Paul Bunyan, Pecos Bill and John Henry, a giant who cuts canyons with his plow and seeds lakes with his tears.
Our long spell of waiting is over. Six years ago Anne Isaacs teamed up with Paul O. Zelinsky on "Swamp Angel," the story of Angelica Longrider, a red-haired girl from the hills of Tennessee who grew and grew and grew and grew to become the greatest woodswoman in the land. Born in 1815, when Tennessee was still unsettled, Angelica rescued a wagon train from the mists of Dejection Swamp when she was only 12. "Ever since that time," Isaacs wrote, "Angelica Long­rider has been known as Swamp Angel. To this day, stories about Swamp Angel spring up like sunflowers along the wagon trails. And every one of them is true."
True or not, the book won well-deserved praise, including a Caldecott Honor, for Isaacs' storytelling and Zelinsky's witty illustrations, done in an American primitive style on wood veneers.
Much of "Swamp Angel" chronicled Angelica's battle with a giant bear. Day and night they fought like Frazier and Ali, until the Angel finally got the best of the bear by snoring down a tree on top of him. She kept its pelt as a rug, but it was too big for Tennessee "so she moved to Montana and spread that bear rug out on the ground in front of her cabin," Isaacs wrote. "Nowadays, folks call it the Shortgrass Prairie."
In the motion picture business, folks, that's what they call a sequel tease.
Now the Isaacs-Zelinsky team is back with "Dust Devil," in which our heroine, who is all of 16 years old, finds herself setting up house on the Montana prairie. The flat land offers no shade, so Angel plucks a nearby mountain and plants it east of her ranch. Voilà: cool relief. "Pretty soon all her neighbors wanted a mountain," Isaacs writes. "So Angel grabbed an armful and planted mountains one by one on the ­prairie. ‘That's a beaut,' she'd say proudly every time she set one down. And to this day, every stand-alone peak in Montana is called a butte."
In "Dust Devil," 19th-century Montana is a land where hyperbole is common fact. The soil is "rich enough to open its own bank." One summer the corn shot up so fast the stalks lifted cows into the sky, and "it rained milk by the bucket." When a dust storm engulfs the land, Angel takes to rasslin' with it and discovers its cause: a giant white horse, "bucking and wheeling and neighing like fury!" Soon enough the horse, named Dust Devil, becomes her trusty sidekick, Babe the Blue Ox to her Paul Bunyan.
Every heroine needs a villain to foil, and Isaacs comes up with some dandies: Backward Bart and his gang of Flying Desperadoes, who ride through Montana "as fast as bad news," robbing and terrorizing everywhere they go. Bart grew up backward, so every time he speaks it sounds like, well, like something funny. "Cash your gimme!" he'd say at a stickup. "Up hurry!"
Bart and his gang give Zelinsky a chance to shine. There's Missouri Jerk, who resembles a mustache with a man attached; Lovely Poe, whose face looks like the bad end of a bar fight; Lawless Sam Diego, who looks like a loving homage to Quentin Blake's hirsute husband in "The Twits," by Roald Dahl; and the Stanford twins, By-Guess and By-Golly, who are peg-legged, eye-patched and just plain creepy.
Did I mention that Bart and the Desperadoes ride giant mosquitoes instead of horses? They do grow 'em big in Montana, you know.
Generations ago this kind of big-sky storytelling was an oral folk art. Tale-­spinners like Hathaway Jones, the Munchausen of Oregon's Rogue River country, helped people pass long evenings and laugh away hardship with tales of ridiculous deprivation: Cold? This is nothing. Heck, one winter it was so cold the water froze under the jumping salmon, left 'em stranded on hard ice. It was entertainment, succor and backhanded bragging, and Anne Isaacs has the style, the tone, the motifs and the humor absolutely nailed. It's as if the author discovered Angelica the Angel hidden away in some old folkways archive in the Smithsonian.
In the end, of course, the heroine saves the day through bravery, pluck and a clever ploy. In all the scuffling, Angel creates the Sawtooth Range and the geysers of Yellowstone, a couple of Montana-size instances of what an economist might call unintended consequences. Will there be a third installment? The portents are positive. When Angel knocked the teeth out of Bart and the Desperadoes, you see, their gold fillings "washed downstream, all the way to California," Isaacs writes. "Eventually settlers discovered those nuggets and started a stampede. But that's another story." Saddle up, boys! The lady's headed west.