Best Shot in the West: The Adventures of Nat Love Book Poster Image

Best Shot in the West: The Adventures of Nat Love

Gripping nonfiction graphic novel brings Old West to life.

What parents need to know

Educational value

African-American cowboys are not well-represented in most histories of the American West. Best Shot in the West puts former slave 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.

Positive messages

Best Shot in the West explores the career of an extraordinary man who determined his own destiny in the American West, using his finely honed talents for marksmanship and horsemanship to survive amid great danger. It serves as a strong reminder that not only white people settled the Old West, and that 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.


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.


When Love is captured by Indians, 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.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this engaging, nonfiction graphic novel 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 pre-eminent 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 Indians 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.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about how African Americans contributed to the exploration of the American frontier. 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? Do you think everything in it is the absolute truth?

Book details

Authors:Patricia C. McKissack, Frederick L. McKissack
Illustrator:Randy DuBurke
Book type:Non-Fiction
Publisher:Chronicle Books
Publication date:January 18, 2012
Number of pages:129
Publisher's recommended age(s):12 - 17

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Kid, 10 years old March 1, 2015

Gripping, violent graphic novelabout African American trailblazer is historically accurate and hard to put down

There's no shortage of intense chase scenes and shootouts in this new biography from acclaimed authors Patricia C. and Frederick L. McKissack. Stampedes, stabbing (silhouetted), shooting (Nat prizes his Colt .45), and whipping (delivered by the slave owners) are only a few of the incidents the protagonist gets tangled up in. There are a few glimpses of blood as well. Also, Nat suggests he and his fellow cowboys get drunk in Dodge City by saying that "our mamas wouldn't be proud." As this story is based on the earlier Adventures of Deadwood Dick, these occurences are true and are not toned down in any way. It's a quick read (132 pages), but it can be disturbing to the young'uns. Bottom line; you can let your 10 year old read it if they aren't very sensitive.
What other families should know
Educational value
Too much violence
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking