Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Bad News for Outlaws: The Remarkable Life of Bass Reeves, Deputy U. S. Marshal

By Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie
Carolrhoda, 2009. Unpaged. Juvenile nonfiction.

Bass Reeves is somewhat the rage these days with Gary Paulsen's fictionalized account of his life and now with Vaunda Nelson's impressive picture book biography. Reeves, a runaway slave who became one of the premier lawmen of the Old West, made more than 3,000 arrests in his tenure serving Judge Isaac Parker, and (reluctantly) killed fourteen men in the line of duty. His honesty, fearlessness, and ingenuity served him well as he used ploys and disguises to get close to the criminals and then bring 'em in. Nelson's style is perfect for her subject: she uses old-timey frontier expressions to tell Bass's story, enriching and focusing the narrative, and allowing her young readers to figure out from context what is meant. Gregory Christie's bold and roughhewn illustrations are a fine complement to Nelson's text, and an excellent rendering of frontier life.

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