Inspired by his grandson Caleb, author Bill Rodger has written Caleb and the Night of the Cattle Theft, a tale of a young boy who foils the plan of cattle rustlers.
Caleb and the Night of the Cattle Theft belongs to a subgenre of children’s books: tales told by grandparents, featuring their own grandchildren as characters in the story. Rodger’s story engages readers as Caleb arrives for a visit to his grandparents’ farm, helping out and enjoying the fresh air. In the middle of the night, Caleb is awakened by noises from outside; when he investigates, he sees three men preparing to load his grandparents’ cattle onto a trailer. Determined to stop the criminals, Caleb manages to lift the hood of the truck and cut some wires to eliminate the rustlers’ means of escape. Caleb wakes his grandparents, and the police are summoned to arrest the would-be thieves.
Rodger does a skilled job of making the story accessible to a wide audience; details of the workings of the cattle farm are explained as needed, for example. Rodger’s writing is solid, but prone to occasional mechanics issues, such as the unnecessary capitalization of “Police” and the omission of commas in the following sentence: “Quietly [sic] with all lights out [sic] the convoy of Police vehicles headed down the lane with Caleb in the lead car.”
The illustrations adequately show the action of the story, but aren’t particularly eye-catching; they’re serviceable but bland. And the front cover is not so much designed as reproduced exactly from an interior page.
Despite such issues, Caleb and the Night of the Cattle Theft is a promising start for Rodger in his first attempt at a children’s book. It will hold the interest of young readers the first time through, but may not have enough appeal for multiple readings.
Also available as an ebook.