Although you wouldn’t know it from typical cowboy stories and movies, about a quarter of actual cowhands were African-American, and this is the story of the most famous of them, the champion horse breaker and rifle shot known as Deadwood Dick. Nat Love was born into slavery in Tennessee, but left after emancipation to go to Dodge City, Kans., and find fortune as a cowboy. A nonstop run of cattle drives, shooting contests, and adventures in Indian Territory—interspersed with meetings with Bat Masterson and the like—follows until Love retires to become a Pullman porter. Based on his 1907 autobiography, much of this lively tale probably stretches the truth in the penny dreadful style of the day, but the McKissacks and DuBurke bring this world alive with judicious quotations—on buying his first suit of new clothes, Love says, “I looked like a man. I felt like a man”—and, in particular, dramatic full-color art. DuBurke channels elements of classic art of the Old West—the horses, guns, and Indians all feel authentic—while keeping strong characterization at the forefront. While a bit more history might have been welcome, the result is a fine introduction to a little-known piece of Americana. Ages 12–up. (Feb.)
From the Publisher
"A fine introduction to a little-known piece of Americana" - Publishers Weekly"
Coated in a patina of genuine history" - Booklist"
Beautifully illustrated, and will take you back to the time of outlaws and sharpshooters" - Education.com"
Action-packed... Lively illustrations done in a painterly style bring the action to life." - SLJ Teen"
A perfect use of the graphic format to celebrate the life of a legendary American. History that's fun to read.and important." - Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review
VOYA - Geri Diorio
Nat Love lived one of the most exciting and full lives of any American, yet not many teens know about him. This terrific graphic novel biography aims to change that. The book is framed as a letter Nat writes to a publisher, telling his life story. Born a slave in the 1850's, he had a knack for horses that led him to become one of the best cowboys ever. He was a crack shot, knew Billy the Kid and Bat Masterson, and was captured by, lived with, and escaped from Indians. When railroads changed the face of the West and ended the era of the cowboy, Nat married, took a job as a porter, and ended up seeing more of the country on the rails than he ever did on a horse. The authors pull much of their information right from Love's own autobiography, lending an air of authenticity to their narrative. DuBurke's paintings are gorgeously colored. His palette is of the wild west: warm golden light, rich browns, hot reds, startling glimpses of green, all covered with dust and haze. The brushwork allows him to show the blur of motion from a bucking horse, or the spatter of blood from a gunshot. It is sometimes hard to tell characters apart, but this is a small gripe with what is otherwise an impressively illustrated biography. Love lived a fascinating life during a time of great change; his story is perfect to capture students' attention. Reviewer: Geri Diorio
Children's Literature - Michael Jung PhD
Western fans gain a new perspective on the Old West in this graphic novel, which focuses on the often overlooked but true story of Nat Love (a.k.a. Deadwood Dick), a legendary African-American cowboy who once rode with the likes of Billy the Kid and Bat Masterson. Born as a slave on a Southern plantation shortly before the American Civil War, Love eventually gained his freedom and found he had a skill for riding and taming horses. When a chance horse raffle double-win netted Love a large sum, the young man used his winnings to join a cattle teamand spent the next several years journeying across the untamed American frontier, experiencing the raw beauty of an untouched wilderness, as well as dangers from unrelenting storms and Indianssome of whom were so impressed by Love's skills they offered to adopt him into their tribe. The McKissacks do an impressive job in conveying both the romantic and dangerous aspects of herding cattle through the Old West (which are based in large part on experiences covered in Love's own autobiography). DuBurke's artwork tends to be somewhat abstract and heavily shadowedyet somehow, this illusory quality works to support the almost dream-like aspects of the McKissacks' story, as they offers readers a glimpse into the life of an almost forgotten legend. Reviewer: Michael Jung, PhD
School Library Journal
S. Army fort, and the cowboy competition that gives the authors the right to call Love "The Best Shot in the West." DuBurke's muscular art features flying bullets, billowing dust, and driving rain. Panels tend to be large, the better to depict the wide open spaces of the Great Plains and the cattle, horses, and buffalo that Love lived and worked among. Exciting and picturesque, Nat Love's life makes for a great graphic novel.—Paula Willey, Baltimore County Public Library, Towson, MD
On a train out of Denver in 1902, two old cowboys reminisce about the Old West. Nat Love is now a Pullman porter on the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad, but he was once "Deadwood Dick," a famous cowboy, every bit the equal to western heroes Bat Masterson, Calamity Jane, the Earps and Wild Bill Hickok. As a porter, he suffers rude treatment and racist comments, but when William Bugler boards the train, the "[w]orld's best shooter and [the] world's best scout" recall old times, and Bugler (an invented character) convinces Nat to write down his stories for his Kansas City newspaper. The remainder of the graphic novel is Nat's stories--his life as a slave in Davidson County, Tenn., his work as a cowpuncher and his 20 years of adventures in a world that no longer exists. The text is complemented by acrylic-and-pen full-color illustrations (seen only in black-and-white for review), in which DuBurke uses his experience as a comic-book artist to capture the dramatic energy of line and gesture, just right for a gun-slinging hero. A perfect use of the graphic format to celebrate the life of a legendary American. History that's fun to read…and important. (authors' note, illustrator's note) (Historical fiction. 10 & up)