Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels
- Age: 13 to 18
- Grade: 4 to 7
Leroy "Doodlebug" Barnstable likes to call himself the quickest draw in the west--with a crayon. It's 1923 and Doodle is on the run from a couple of abusive cousins. He stumbles into a travelling Chautauqua show where it's easy to get lost in a crowd--but also easy to lose your heart. This funny and endearing novel by Governor General Award-winning novelist Glen Huser will make an absorbing read for fourteen and fifteen year olds, boys and girls alike.
About the author
From his earliest years, Glen Huser has loved to write and read and draw and paint. That’s when he wasn’t losing himself in the dark cocoon of a movie theatre or picking out old-time radio standards and Broadway musical hits on the piano. As a teacher and school librarian for a lengthy career in Edmonton, he worked his passions for art and literature into school projects such as Magpie, an in-house quarterly featuring writing and art from students. In his off hours, he wrote movie reviews for a local weekly, children’s book reviews for The Edmonton Journal, and got his small ink landscapes into galleries. As he worked on a degree in Education and then a Masters in English at the U of A, he had the good fortune to work under the tutelage of Rudy Wiebe, Margaret Atwood and W. O. Mitchell. For several years he was a sessional lecturer in children’s literature, information studies and creative writing at the U of A in Edmonton and UBC in Vancouver. His first novel Grace Lake was shortlisted for the 1992 W.H. Smith-Books in Canada First Novel Award. He has written several books for young adult readers including the Governor General’s Award-winner Stitches and the GG finalist Skinnybones and the Wrinkle Queen. Short stories have appeared in a number of literary magazines, most recently Plenitude and Waterloo University’s The New Quarterly. Glen’s current home is Vancouver where he continues to write as well as pursue interests in art and film studies.
"Intrigue, romance and fun leaven this tale of a good-hearted runaway boy beginning to find his way in the world. This likable protagonist makes for a fine introduction to an era before movies and radio caused the Chautauqua to fade away." - Kirkus
"This book is wonderful for those students who enjoy an adventure in time and in spirit." - Resource Links
"Glen Huser has written an entertaining and heart-warming story that captures both the innocence and the hardship of the 20s. ... The well-constructed historical setting, great character development, and a fast-paced story contributes to the likeability of this book. Recommended." - CM Magazine
"this first-person account by a good-hearted hero is the perfect guide through a charming and little-known piece of Americana. The style is a plainsong poetry, and the story both evocative and heartrending. Highly recommended" - Historical Novel Society
"Readers will find the story of the Chautauqua entertaining." - G. Ray Bodley High School, Fulton, NY
The RunawayLeroy “Doodlebug” Barnstable’s life has been “as steady as telephone poles along a highway” until his fifteenth year, when his parents’ car accident lands him under the guardianship of cousins who overwork, cheat and mistreat him. Leroy runs away, finding friendship, work and a hideout with actors, lecturers and musicians who travel a rural circuit offering a mix of entertainment and education known as a Chautauqua Show. Leroy parlays his doodling talent into a career and falls in love under the big top, but trouble threatens from a vengeful cousin, a rival for his sweetheart and a thug whose dealings with his sweetheart’s father are less than amicable.
A winner of the Governor General’s Literary Award, author Glen Huser has created a fast-paced, enjoyable story, the setting of which gives an organic history lesson about the Chautauqua Shows, a movement that spanned the 1880s to the 1920s. An author’s note and a few reference titles provide further reading on the Chautauqua. Huser has a flair for 1920s lingo and for painting minor characters with a few well-chosen observations. The generic title and uninspiring cover art (disappointing, considering that Leroy is a gifted doodler) are the only weaknesses, though serious ones, considering the way many readers choose books.
This slim novel could be enjoyed as a read-aloud in a classroom for ages 9-12 or as independent reading. A media studies class might investigate an assertion made in the novel that movies and radio (and other popular media) lose something compared with the immediateness and communal experience of the Chautauqua performance.
Source: The Canadian Children's Bookcentre. Fall 2011. Volume 34 No. 4.
The RunawayAfter Leroy’s parents die, he is left to live with his aunt and her two sons. Finding life with his abusive cousins unbearable, Leroy decides to run away. He stumbles into a travelling Chautauqua show (a travelling show that brought entertainment and culture to communities) where it’s easy to get lost in a crowd — but also easy to lose your heart.
Source: The Canadian Children’s Book Centre. Best Books for Kids & Teens. Fall, 2012.