Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

Will Rogers: His Life and Times, by Richard M. Ketchum, is divided into twenty-three chapters, each titled by one of Rogers’ more famous quotations. The biography is chronological, although it contains many stops along the way that provide parallel historical narratives. For example, a brief history of Wiley Post and his accomplishments is inserted into the narrative just prior to the account of the airplane crash that killed both Post and Rogers. A multitude of archival photographs add interest to the text; some pages are devoted entirely to photographs. The quantity and quality of the photographic documentation is extraordinary for the period of time in which they were taken. Marginal quotations, letters, playbills, two-page spreads of quotations, and other documents fill the book. They add a luster to the biography that encourages the reader to continue to the next exploit.

Will Rogers begins with a rather long account of the history of the Cherokee tribe, from their life on the East Coast, through their removal to Oklahoma, then through the land rush, when the Homestead Act further limited their lands. It then narrows down to the Rogers line and becomes more specific with the birth of Clement Vann Rogers, Will’s father. Contrary to popular belief, Will Rogers was the only surviving son of a prosperous father and was doted upon as a boy. That, when added to his wanderlust and nervous energy, contributed to his inability to settle...

(The entire section is 581 words.)