Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Best Shot in the West Review

Book talk: It started by breaking colts: ten cents a horse. Then one day Nat got lucky in a raffle  and he used his winnings to head out west.  Before long he found a cattle team and when they tested him on their wildest horse he showed them what he could do.  He joined on and they fixed him up with new clothes, a gun, and a new name. Nat Love became Deadwood Dick as he adopted the cowboy lifestyle.  His new life full of adventures and the storms, stampedes, and raids made him feel more alive than he ever had before--but if he wasn't careful they would also be the things that killed him.

Rocks my socks: I absolutely loved the artwork in this comic--the bold colors captured the various highs and lows of the story well and the sketchy style matched the dirty, fast-paced lifestyle described.  The story itself is fascinating--all the more so because it is based on real events.  Nat was born as a slave, then became a famously skilled cowboy, and finally ended up as a Pullman Porter (their story is fascinating as well--the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters would later be one of the first African American unions) I was absolutely crazy for the narrative voice of Nat Love.  The framing of the story is that Nat is looking back on his life as an old man and writing down his reminiscences that would later be turned into an autobigoraphy (the story of why he does this is made up but the autobiography is real: The Life and Adventures of Nat Love Better Known in the Cattle Country as "Deadwood Dick") But for all the truly commendable aspects of the story, if I'm being honest I have to admit that mostly I enjoyed it because it was a good cowboy tale full of excitement and adventure.

Rocks my socks: None come to mind, except perhaps that I wish it was longer.

Every book its reader: Fans of old west adventures, history, and comics will all find plenty to keep them happy in these pages.  There is a fair amount of violence, as you'd expect in this type of story, but it is based on real life and not needless or gratuitous.  There are a couple oblique references to other activities cowboys got up to, for example his first impression of Dodge City: "I didn't know if I was in heaven or Sodom." But overall it's pretty tame for a cowboy adventure and Nat mostly acts honorably.  Some of the vocabulary would be hard for younger students but the pictures help get the point across.  I'd say 4th grade and up.

Best Shot in the West by Patricia C. McKissack, Frederick L. McKissack, and Randy Duburke

Buy it or check it out today!

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