Carol Emshwiller is an award-winning writer whose new book for young adults, Mister Boots, is a fantasy, but don’t expect fairies, elves or magic wands. Ten-year-old Bobby is more familiar with California’s arid ranches and the poverty of the Great Depression than Oz or Narnia. While exploring one night Bobby discovers a naked man sleeping under a tree, a man who claims to be a horse. It is soon clear that Mister Boots is sometimes a man and sometimes a horse. He asks Bobby to keep his secret, something Bobby is good at because unbeknownst to all but her mother and sister, Bobby is actually Roberta. This disguise is not to fool the locals, but to protect her from an abusive, often absent father who obsessively desires a son. When her mother dies and Bobby’s father returns, it takes all of Mister Boots’ and Bobby’s magic to face the challenge.
Colleen Cahill is Recommending Officer of Science Fiction and Fantasy at the Library of Congress.