Black Heroes of the Wild West: Featuring Stagecoach Mary, Bass Reeves, and Bob Lemmons

James Otis Smith. Toon, $16.95 (60p) ISBN 978-1-9431-4552-2
In the powerful introduction to this uneven nonfiction graphic novel, Caldecott Medalist Kadir Nelson (The Undefeated) emphasizes the importance of celebrating Black heroes of the Wild West, where “up to a third of the settler population was African American.” Smith (Showtime at the Apollo), making his solo debut, introduces readers to three oft-unsung Black pioneers of the 19th and 20th centuries: “gun-toting, pants-wearing, punch-throwing” mail carrier Mary Fields (Stagecoach Mary); Bass Reeves, who brought outlaws to justice as the first Black deputy marshal west of the Mississippi River; and expert “mustanger” Bob Lemmons, a fearless wrangler of wild horses who “made the mustangs think I was one of them.” Witty punch lines and comic strip–style illustrations support the figures’ stories with an emphasis on biographical details and the landscape. Unfortunately, the repetition of “slave” as a noun and a reference to “Native American culture” as a singular entity both strike odd notes, as does an uncontextualized reference to Reeves as “boy.” The postscript includes ample historical notes on topics such as the Buffalo Soldiers, Native American and Black American alliances, vaqueros, and Black homesteaders—as well as a generous list of resources for further reading, supporting the idea, as Nelson states, that “it’s time that we hear every American’s story.” Ages 8–12. (Sept.)■
Reviewed on : 08/06/2020
Release date: 09/01/2020
Genre: Children's
Hardcover - 60 pages - 978-1-943145-51-5
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