Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Bad News for Outlaws: Diversity Title #1

Author: Vaunda Micheaux Nelson
Illustrator: R. Gregory Christie
Year Published: 2009
Publisher: Carolrhoda Books
Awards: Coretta Scott King Award (2010)

What did you like/dislike about the book?
Vaunda Micheaux Nelson's book, Bad News for Outlaws: The Remarkable Life of Bass Reeves, Deputy U.S. Marshall, is a tale of the noble U.S. Deputy Marshall, Bass Reeves.  Reeves was born into slavery and, following the Civil War, earned his freedom.  He was hired as a Deputy Marshall and became one of the most respected lawmen of his time.  Reeves often donned disguises to capture criminals and served for over 30 years.

My favorite detail of the book is Reeves' character.  He was a noble man and his story should be told.  Reeves loved what he did and stuck to his morals, even when it meant arresting his own son.  I also enjoyed the illustrations.  Christie's realistic use of color brought the West to life.

This book includes a timeline, additional research resources, a Western vocabulary list, and an author's note about the story.

This book is appropriate for intermediate readers.  Younger readers can look at the pictures, but the vocabulary will be too advanced for them.  It can be used to teach African-American history, civil affairs, and American history.  Some readers may be uncomfortable with the casual way death is dealt with in this story, but it does not overwhelm the plot.

Why should this title be in every classroom/library collection?
This title shows a different side of the Old West than readers are used to.  Many times, cowboys are portrayed as middle aged, white men.  However, Reeves breaks the mold as an African-American lawman near the time of the Civil War.  This lesson in diversity is an important one for young readers to learn.  Showing diverse characters in authority positions helps reinforce dreams for young diverse readers.

How does this book compare to similar books/author’s other books?
Nelson's other titles always include African-American children as characters.  She writes with strong themes of family, celebration, and traditions.  Her books also tend to have a historical slant, such as this one discussing the Old West.

What did I learn about children’s literature from this book?
Diverse historical figures can make for strong, authentic characters.  Life lessons can be learned from these titles, especially character traits such as nobility and honor.

Other titles by this author include:

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