Written and Illustrated by Jan Brett
J.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1995
“Armadillos, one, two, three – Bo! Let’s go,” Ma Armadillo called to her boys as they headed out to dig, deep in the heart of Texas hill country.
Plot in a Nutshell: An armadillo has a western adventure.
Bo Armadillo wanders away from his mama to follow a lizard and he comes across Harmony Jean on her way to the rodeo in her new red cowboy boots. She splashes in the mud to help her boots look more broken-in and Bo mistakes one of them for a red armadillo. Harmony Jean heads on her way and Bo follows, calling for his new friend to wait up. Bo follows Harmony Jean onto the back of her bronco, which bucks and tosses him into the air. He spies his shiny new armadillo friend hearing for the Bar-B-Q and gets to eat a jalapeno pepper. He follows her into the barn where the music is being played and gets kicked up by a dancing foot. Later, by the campfire, Harmony Jean removes her boots and Bo tries to introduce himself, but discovers that it’s not an armadillo at all. He wails and his mother hears his voice and comes to bring him home.
Sometimes I go to look up information on a book or an author and it’s hard to find anything at all. With author/illustrator Jan Brett, I know this will never be the case. Ms. Brett’s website is a treasure trove of background information and behind the scenes details that always give me the sense that she loves everything about the process of creating picture books. The pages for this book on her site tell the story of her first visit to Texas and her encounter with a nine-banded armadillo that inspired this story. She tells her visitors all about these funny animals and the Western landscape that she used as the setting for her story.
As always, the main story illustrations are framed by themed borders featuring inset illustrations that tell us more about what’s going on outside of what we’re seeing. In this case, we see Bo’s mother and brothers searching for him and encountering all sorts of local wildlife in the process. The framework has the appearance of being hand-stitched leather and it perfectly suits the story’s atmosphere. Ms. Brett based the ranch, the horses and even the character of Harmony Jean on real places and people and she includes information about them on her website. As a fan of armadillos, I really enjoyed this book and would highly recommend it to anyone with an interest in all things western.
And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that it’s a good idea to look very closely at someone (or something) before following them too far.