Cover image for Wrango
Burks, Brian.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
San Diego : Harcourt Brace, 1999.
Physical Description:
118 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm
When young George McJunkin leaves his home in Texas and joins a cattle drive along the Chisholm Trail, he experiences the hardships of being a Black cowboy after the Civil War.
Reading Level:
780 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR MG 5.2 4.0 32198.

Reading Counts RC 6-8 5.9 8 Quiz: 20347 Guided reading level: NR.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Young Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



The War Between the States is over, and George McJunkin and his family are among the slaves who've won their freedom. Trouble is, the McJunkins still live in a tiny shack, and the money George's father brings in barely keeps food on the table. George's parents say the times are changing. They say someday in Rogers Prairie, Texas, there will be a school for black children. They say someday the family will own the blacksmith shop where George's father still toils for the man who used to own them. But George isn't so sure about someday. Between 1867 and 1895, more than five thousand black cowboys helped drive ten million cattle up the Chisholm Trail from Texas. One such cowboy was George McJunkin, who set out from Rogers Prairie for the adventure that would change his life.

Author Notes

Brian Burks' published works include Runs With Horses , Soldier Boy , and Wrango , which was awarded the Western Writers of America Spur Award for Best Western Juvenile Fiction.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Gr. 5^-8. Basing his story on the early years of African American cowboy George McJunkin, Burks spins a historical tale about a young man who yearns to ride the range. After he inadvertently squares off against the Klan to protect his father, George leaves town to save his own life. It isn't long before he lucks into a three-month stint as a horse wrangler on a cattle drive. By the time the cattle are in the boxcars, he has survived a rattlesnake bite, rescued an enemy from drowning, and helped catch a murderous thief. Supporting characters are not developed, and the events sound cliched. But Burks capably handles the goings on with honest dialogue and a wagonload of action--particularly in the scene describing the crossing of the treacherous Red River. An epilogue sketches in the real George's later years, but unfortunately, Burks never tells how much of the novel is actually fact. A glossary of cowboy slang is appended. --Randy Meyer

Library Journal Review

Gr 4-8-A fictionalized biography of black cowboy George McJunkin's first cattle drive at age 16, Wrango is an affecting history lesson. Wrangling being the closest thing to an equal-opportunity vocation following the Civil War, it attracts George, who joins his mentor, Senor Valarde, on the Chisholm Trail herding cattle from Comanche, TX, to the rail yards in Abilene, KS. Racism surfaces-an ironically fortuitous run-in with the Klan in his south Texas hometown provides the catalyst George needs to cut the apron strings and begin his career as a cowboy; a jealous cowpuncher questions his place on the trail-but the rigors of the cattle drive generally supersede, or at least postpone, individual confrontations. Burks hints at McJunkin's intellectual potential through his desire to learn to read combined with an archaeological curiosity that would lead many years later to his discovery of the skeleton of "Folsom Man" in New Mexico. Indians, horse thieves, cholera, harsh weather, erratic terrain, and even herds of buffalo provide unifying adversaries for this mix of cowboys and vaqueros. Addenda include a frontispiece portrait of McJunkin on his horse taken when he was about 60-years-old, a map of the Chisholm Trail, and a brief glossary of cowboy/vaquero lingo. Fans of Denise Lewis Patrick's The Adventures of Midnight Son (Holt, 1995) will want to read this absorbing chronicle of a slightly older, equally introspective, although perhaps a bit cooler-headed, former slave who is determined to be his own man, proud and free.-John Sigwald, Unger Memorial Library, Plainview, TX (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.