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Mary Casanova - Books for Young People
Utterly Otterly Night
The Day Dirk Yeller Came
to Town
written by Mary Casanova
illus. by Ard Hoyt
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
May 2011
(HC) 978-0374317423
Video: At Home with Mary Casanova
Mary shares her writing process and the inspiration behind Some Cat! and Dirk Yeller. You can also watch the video here.
The Day Dirk Yeller Came to Town from Autographed books!
The Day Dirk Yeller Came to Town  
The day Dirk Yeller came to town, the wind curled its lip, cattle quit lowin’, and tumbleweeds stopped tumblin’ along. Townsfolk whispered. “He starts stampedes!” “He holds up trains!” “He’s trouble!”

When Dirk Yeller scours the town for something to stop his itchin’ and twitchin’ and jumpin’ and rattlin’, no one seems able to help. But Sam, who’s been following Dirk all day—and who can sometimes be a little fidgety, too—knows the perfect solution...

Reading by Arkansas Librarian and Coloring Activity
Here’s a special treat: a reading of The Day Dirk Yeller Came to Town read by librarian Trinity Neeley of the Little Rock Public Library. After you've listened to the reading, follow this link to download your choice of cowboy-themed coloring sheets.
Reviews and Comments
It takes one ingenious little boy to defuse a threat that has a whole town quaking in its boots.

Larger than life, dangerous outlaw Dirk Yeller looms into town bigger than his horse, terrifying even the tumbleweeds. He's lookin' for who-knows-what to stop his itchin' and twitchin' and jumpin' and rattlin'. Only one small boy, the narrator of the tale, stands up to Dirk and leads him to, of all places, the public library. There, he is charmed by Miss Jenny, who helps him find just the right book, even though he isn't a "real strong reader." Lost in reading, he's cured of his itchin'. As the sun sinks low and closing time nears, Dirk Yeller rides off with a saddlebag of books, promising to come back—not to cause trouble, but to get more books (and to see Miss Jenny). The sandy-hued illustrations are packed with details and humor. The antics of a cat and some mice provide a silent visual subplot, and both human and animal expressions will tickle readers.

Hoyt's marvelous caricatures are worth thousands of words, making this hilarious tall tale not only a plug for books and reading but an outsized winner. (Picture book. 4-8)
—Kirkus Reviews

In this Wild West yarn, young Sam manages to tame a notorious outlaw by introducing him to the pleasures found in books. When “extremely dangerous” and all-around bad guy Dirk Yeller shows up in town searching for something to calm his “a-itchin’ and a-twitchin’” fingers, the frightened townsfolk refer him from one establishment to the next in order to deflect his attention. Finally, Sam leads Dirk to the new library, where the lovely Miss Jenny (“sweet as pecan pie”) has just the solution. At closing time, Dirk happily departs with his saddlebags stuffed with books, promising to return for more books, and the townspeople rejoice. Through close-ups and varying perspectives, the softly colored cartoonish illustrations perfectly convey the action of the characters portrayed in the brief text. Pair with other library stories, such as Suzanne Williams’ Library Lil (1997) or Michelle Knudsen’s Library Lion (2006).
—Randall Enos, Booklist

Curriculum Information

Using The Day Dirk Yeller Came to Town in your kindergarten to third grade classroom? Download (PDF) a teaching guide that includes Common Core notation.

Awards & Recognition

Kansas’ Bill Martin Jr. Award winner! (2013)

Missouri's Show-Me Award master list (2014)

Arizona’s Grand Canyon Reader master list (2014)

Arkansas’ Diamond Award master list (2014)

Minnesota’s Star of the North master list (2014)

Florida State Reading List Book Award master list (2012-13)

Montana’s Treasure State Award (2013)

South Carolina Picture Book Award Nominee (2013-14)

From the MacMillan Children’s Publishing Group

Dear Teachers and Librarians,

MCPG was recently graced with author Mary Casanova’s presence at the incredible Texas Library Association Conference in Austin. While Mary's books Some Dog! and One-Dog Canoe have always been favorites in the school / library world, the S&L Marketing experts here at MCPG agree that Mary's newest book, The Day Dirk Yeller Came to Town, may very well surpass their siblings in popularity!

Find me one teacher, librarian, or child for that matter, who can resist the following plot line: Dirk Yeller is the terrifying, acorn-shaped villain of an anonymous Wild West town. Whenever Dirk Yeller is in town it means trouble, especially since he can't stop his itchin' and twitchin' and jumpin' and rattlin'. He needs something to cure his restlessness or the town may be in real trouble. Thank goodness for our young hero, Sam, who happens to know just thing: Books at the local library, of course! It doesn't hurt that Miss Jenny the Librarian is as sweet as pecan pie and prettier still. If you don't "awww" at the spread of Dirk Yeller and Sam reading side-by-side on the floor of the library, I'll lasso a tumbleweed (or attempt to, anyway).

A cowboy story with the local librarian as its hero? Now there's a book I think we can all get behind! The charming and witty illustrations by Ard Hoyt are just as lovely as the appropriately-western language. And be sure to look at the end papers of this book to see a little epilogue to the story . . .

Now quit your itchin' and twitchin' and jumpin' and rattlin' and pick up a copy of The Day Dirk Yeller Came to Town by Mary Casanova and illustrated by Ard Hoyt. I bet you a rattlesnake you won't regret it.

Your Local School and Library Law Enforcement,



Mary Casanova is a fiscal year 2023 recipient of a Creative Support for Individuals grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board and the Arrowhead Regional Arts Board. This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation by the Minnesota State Legislature; and by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

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