(Phew! Between the author and the illustrators, there are six names to tack to this one.)
Amidst the romance and balloons and hearts of Valentine's Day, Fat Chance, Claude stands out as singularly unromantic. But hilarious. Reading a little about this book, it appears to be the last in a Claude and Shirley series, but is actually the first. If that makes sense. It is a prequel to the first one.
Shirley is a strong minded girl who has no time for primping or simpering. She enjoys the idea of ending up an old maid, but it worries her mother. Which worries Shirley. Just before boring old Elmer Twaddle comes calling one evening in a last ditch effort to marry her off, Shirley tries to convince the bull to get out of the garden patch. She ends up landing inelegantly on the front porch, bringing the porch railing and two loose teeth with her.
Elmer Twaddle looses no time in heading back to town.
Shirley decides to head west.
Claude on the other hand, put his two brothers through college and when his mother remarried and presented him with six new brothers, Claude wished them well and suddenly remembered he had always wanted to see the west.
Of course, Claude and Shirley end up on the same wagon train. As the only two singletons, it made sense to join forces, so they saw a lot of each other.
Neither one was even remotely sentimental about the other one. As you can see from Claude's comments just above this picture.
In this picture, Shirley just saved Claude from a copperhead by throwing hot stew on the copperhead and incidentally, Claude. He was upset, but finally saw the sense in what Shirley did.
From his previous comments though, I think a good scalding probably did him a world of good.
When they finally get "west," they part ways, but somehow both find gold on precisely the same claim. They declare that they are going to beat the other one to town, but really, you know they are too nice to actually do that. Then, through a misunderstanding, they actually do try to beat each other to it.
In the end, they bow to fate and love and team up.
Fairy tale, it is not. But you can't help loving these two.
Claude and Shirley are the perfect antidote to a surfeit of hearts and balloons and fairy tales.