Wild West

Book review by
Megan McDonald, Common Sense Media
Wild West Book Poster Image
Easy-to-read portrait of the Old West.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.


Nongraphic discussion of raids, battles, and wars; guns pictured and named; hanging mentioned. Small drawing of a warrior whose chest is pierced with skewers tied by leather thongs to a sacred pole.


Makeshift camps of railroad workers referred to as "hell on wheels."

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What parents need to know

Parents need to know that the oversize, visual-dictionary format showcases illustrations, old-timey maps, period photos, and paintings.

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What's the story?

From teepee villages to cow towns, from the quarterhorse to the iron horse, this is a rich, lavishly illustrated survey of the Old West with engaging slices of information told in readable, you-are-there style. Tribal homelands and warriors, ranchers and homesteaders, trail and home life, forts and battles--this book covers it all.


Is it any good?

This is a browser-friendly portrait of the Old West that the author hopes will dispel misunderstandings about the era. The history behind such fascinating real-life characters of the Old West as Crazy Horse and Geronimo, Calamity Jane and Wild Bill Hickok, and Annie Oakley and Buffalo Bill is described here in short, easy-to-read overviews, each introducing a chapter of the American West. The author skillfully sets these familiar figures in the larger context of historical events.

The author briefly outlines the impact of events and people, as well as describing daily life on a ranch, a trail, a mining town, and a prairie. Short captions (with an occasional typo) under bold headings reveal details such as collecting buffalo dung for fuel, outfitting a Conestoga wagon, and building a sod house. Each page spread is well designed, offering plenty of information in visual form.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the romanticized history of the American West. Do you feel you have a real sense of what it was like to live then? How does it compare with the West of myth and legend?

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