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Bri Meets Books

Children's and YA literature reviews.

bassreevesSitting tall in the saddle, with a wide-brimmed black hat and twin Colt pistols on his belt, Bass Reeves seemed bigger than life. As a U.S. Marshal – and former slave who escaped to freedom in the Indian Territories – Bass was cunning and fearless.

For three decades, Bass was the most feared and respected lawman in the territories. He made more than 3,000 arrests, and though he was a crack shot and a quick draw, he only killed fourteen men in the line of duty. Bad News for Outlaws reveals the story of a remarkable African American hero of the Old West. – Summary from publisher

Pardon the pun, but Bad News for Outlaws is an arresting book.  Author Vaunda Micheaux Nelson draws readers in immediately setting the scene with an  “1884 showdown in Indian territory.  An outlaw tumbles through a window, the U.S. Marshall Bass Reeves on his heels, deciding whether to bring him in dead or alive.  The reader gets snapshots of Reeves’s life, from growing up as a young slave in the 1840s until running away after striking his Master, to finding freedom in 1874, and life as a deputy.  Throughout the book, the narrative jumps from story to a near-timeline. Once we’ve “met” Reeves and the timeline reaches his joining the U.S. Marshals, the story flows more continuously.

This is a history-rich book. It’s full of accounts of Bass’ tricks to capture outlaws, such as how he outsmarted two brothers and their mother to arrest them, more serious stories, like how he was forced to arrest his own son.

The language used is appropriate to a book about the wild west, with descriptive paragraphs, and the proper embellishment expected for a man who was so revered, he was a legend.

“Bass stood a head taller than most men of his time. He had broad shoulders and huge hands. Bass was so strong, he single-handedly pulled a steer out of mud up its neck while a bunch of slack-jawed cowpokes stood speechless. Bass sported a large, bushy mustache and wore a wide-brimmed black hat. He rode tall, powerful horses. But the biggest thing about Bass Reeves was his character. He had a dedication to duty few men could match. He didn’t have a speck of fear in him. And he was as honest as the day is long.”

The illustrations by R. Gregory Christie bring the old west alive, with dark hues for the land, people, but always  with bright blue wide skies.   badnewsspread

Boys will flock to this book, definitely. The author’s research and dedication is apparent with anecdotes and quotes about the feared lawman who truly was “bad news for outlaws.”    There’s a glossary of western terminology, a timeline, additional resources, and an author note in the back.  There’s a lot of text, so readers would be advised this is a Grade 4 reading level book, and it might be a little daunting for young ones.

There’s supplemental material on the publisher’s website, with a podcast, downloadable discussion guide and more.

Copy for review and images provided by the publisher

Title:  Bad News for Outlaws
Author:  Vaunda Micheaux Nelson (Illus. by R. Gregory Christie)
Date: November 2009
Publisher: Carolrhoda
Pages: 40
Format:  Hardback

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