cover image Let ’Er Buck: George Fletcher, the People’s Champion

Let ’Er Buck: George Fletcher, the People’s Champion

Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, illus. by Gordon C. James. Carolrhoda, $18.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-5124-9808-0

Colloquial narration by Nelson (The Book Itch) pairs with striking oil-on-board paintings by James (Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut) to introduce readers to African-American cowboy George Fletcher. Living in Pendleton, Ore., at the turn of the 20th century, Fletcher “suffered meanness and hurt because of his skin color.” He also “found a kinship” with children from the Umatilla Indian Reservation and “watched the tribal horsemen and listened well.” Most of the book focuses on Fletcher’s entry in the 1911 Pendleton Round-Up, the Northwest’s largest rodeo, where Fletcher lost the bronc riding finals despite a show-stealing ride. The local sheriff, sensing prejudice in the judges’ decision, raised prize money on the spot for Fletcher, who was dubbed “the People’s Champion.” Broad brush strokes paint expressive faces and dynamic scenes of horse and rider; one spread depicts Fletcher atop a bucking horse in several positions, bringing the picture to life. Extensive back matter delves deeper into the lives of Fletcher, his competitors, and the fair-minded sheriff, Tillman Taylor. A glossary of rodeo and western words and a selected bibliography wrap up this triumphant tale of fairness trumping prejudice for a wrangler extraordinaire. Ages 8–12. (Feb.)