Best Shot in the West: The Adventures of Nat Love
By Michael Berry,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Gripping nonfiction graphic novel brings Old West to life.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
African American cowboys are not well-represented in most histories of the American West. Best Shot in the West puts the formerly enslaved Nat Love, aka Deadwood Dick, front and center and follows his career as he breaks broncos, drives cattle, and encounters larger-than-life personalities like Bat Masterson and Billy the Kid.
Determine your own own destiny. Not only White people settled the Old West. African Americans played a vital role in taming the frontier.
Positive Role Models
Nat Love is a man of many talents: a crack shot, a master horseman, a canny survivor of everything the American West throws his way. He endures great physical hardships but always seems to triumph without complaint. And when the Age of the Cowboy has run its course, he finds a way to start a new marriage and a satisfying second career.
Nat Love is a formerly enslaved African American who survived amid great danger through his marksmanship and horsemanship, showing talent, skill, resourcefulness, and resilience. And after his days as a cowboy ends, he goes on to a successful career on the railroad as a Pullman porter. The authors show that African Americans played a vital role in taming the frontier, and the story puts Love's life into the greater context of the African American experience.
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Violence & Scariness
Life in the Old West was dangerous and unforgiving. Nat endures stampedes, shootings, stabbings, and attacks by natives. A few discreet splashes of red in the painted pages are usually enough to suggest an injury or sudden loss of life. The depictions of bloodshed are unlikely to disturb any but the most sensitive readers.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
When Love is captured by Native Americans, the chief gives him his daughter for marriage. The clear implication is that girl is under age, and Love escapes from the village before the exact nature of the "marriage" can be detailed.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Nat and his fellow cowboys spend a night carousing in Dodge City, but the impressionistic illustrations of the temptations to be found in the local saloons leave the details obscured.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Best Shot in the West: The Adventures of Nat Love, by Patricia C. McKissack, Frederick L. McKissack, is an engaging nonfiction graphic novel that chronicles the career of Nat Love, a remarkable African American cowboy who depended on his skills as a horseman and a marksman to survive the hardships of the Old West.
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What's the Story?
BEST SHOT IN THE WEST: THE ADVENTURES OF NAT LOVE follows the career of one of the most famous African American cowboys, from his childhood in slavery through his years of driving cattle and breaking broncos to his second career as a Pullman porter on the railroad. It includes battles with Native Americans and desperados, shooting tournaments, and encounters with Old West characters like Billy the Kid and Bat Masterson.
Is It Any Good?
Black cowboys usually get short shrift in tales of the Old West, but this engaging nonfiction graphic novel chronicles the eventful career of Nat Love, aka "Deadwood Dick." The authors dramatize key scenes from Love's life with economy and clarity and put his life into the greater context of the African American experience. Randy DuBurke's fully painted art captures the energy and urgency of the story. Together, the McKissacks and DuBurke have produced a gripping illustrated biography of a trailblazer well worth young readers' attention.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about how African Americans contributed to the exploration of the American frontier, as shown in Best Shot in the West: The Adventures of Nat Love. Why do you think they are omitted from so many fictional depictions of the Old West?
Do you think Nat Love made the right choice when he left his mother and other family behind to pursue his career as a cowboy?
Why do you think the author chose to frame the main story about Love's career as a cowboy with scenes of him working as a Pullman porter on the railroad in his later years?
This book is based on Love's autobiography The Life and Adventures of Nat Love, Better Known as "Deadwood Dick." Why do you think he chose to tell his own story?
- Authors: Patricia C. McKissack, Frederick L. McKissack
- Illustrator: Randy DuBurke
- Genre: History
- Topics: Adventures, Great Boy Role Models, History, Horses and Farm Animals
- Book type: Non-Fiction
- Publisher: Chronicle Books
- Publication date: January 18, 2012
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 12 - 17
- Number of pages: 129
- Last updated: November 4, 2021
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
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Where to Read
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Great Movies with Black Characters
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