Best Shot in the West: The Adventures of Nat Love

Patricia C. McKissack, Fredrick L. McKissack Jr. and Randy DuBurke. Chronicle, $19.99 (136p) ISBN 978-0-8118-5749-9
Although you wouldn’t know it from typical cowboy stories and movies, about a quarter of actual cowhands were African-American, and this is the story of the most famous of them, the champion horse breaker and rifle shot known as Deadwood Dick. Nat Love was born into slavery in Tennessee, but left after emancipation to go to Dodge City, Kans., and find fortune as a cowboy. A nonstop run of cattle drives, shooting contests, and adventures in Indian Territory—interspersed with meetings with Bat Masterson and the like—follows until Love retires to become a Pullman porter. Based on his 1907 autobiography, much of this lively tale probably stretches the truth in the penny dreadful style of the day, but the McKissacks and DuBurke bring this world alive with judicious quotations—on buying his first suit of new clothes, Love says, “I looked like a man. I felt like a man”—and, in particular, dramatic full-color art. DuBurke channels elements of classic art of the Old West—the horses, guns, and Indians all feel authentic—while keeping strong characterization at the forefront. While a bit more history might have been welcome, the result is a fine introduction to a little-known piece of Americana. Ages 12–up. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 01/02/2012
Release date: 01/01/2012
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