I was prepared to like this book as soon as I held it---it's small and short, with a detailed map inside the front cover. And, once I started reading about Civil War veteran Jefferson Kidd and his young charge Johanna, I liked everything else about it, too.
When Johanna was six, her parents and sister were massacred by Kiowa Indians. Now she is ten years old and has forgotten everything about life before her Kiowa family, including how to bathe and eat. Captain Kidd is paid to deliver Johanna 400 miles across Indian country in Texas, to relatives who advance him $50 to get her back home.
The plot is simple, and may make you wonder if this hadn't been done before in True Grit or Lonesome Dove. Perhaps the action seems familiar, but I was engrossed as I read about the adventures of this unlikely pair.
Captain Kidd supports himself, and now Johanna, by staging readings of newspapers for folks in the small communities they ride through. In one charming plot line, Johanna learns enough English to make sure audience members pay their dimes before entering each reading. (I'll hint that the dimes collected end up being important in the plot in other ways, too.)
The "news of the world" that Captain Kidd reads and his observations about news in one's daily life unify and expand the plot. This book can be read as an adventure story. But, it also has strong relationships with likable characters, plenty of suspense, and it won't surprise you to hear, a satisfying ending.
News of the World is nominated for the National Book Award, and as I write this, the winner has not been announced. In any case, I feel confident most of you will enjoy spending a few hours on the trail with this youngster and this oldster across wild Texas terrain.