Amy Says Read This

Seriously, you should totally read this.

Best Shot in the West by Patricia C. McKissack

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McKissack, P. C., McKissack, F. L., JR., & DuBurke, R. (ill.) (2012). Best shot in the west: the adventures of Nat Love. San Francisco: Chronicle Books. ISBN: 978-0811857499

Annotation: In 1902, Nat Love is a lowly and disrespected railroad porter, but three years earlier, he had been one of the best cowboys herding cattle across the country, even winning the title “Best Shot in the West” in a competition.

Reaction: I love Westerns, so perhaps I’m predisposed, but I really enjoyed this book. It was a quick read, and the stories Nat Love told his newspaper friend (drawn from his actual autobiography) were exciting and full of everything a reader expects from a good Western. Librarianaut likes that he doesn’t run around engaging in all sorts of illegal activities, and I have to agree. I really appreciate that this story is basically just about a man doing his job.

Nat’s stories are told from his retirement, and that distance brings a sense of nostalgia to his adventures. He is frank about the dangers and hardships of the cowboy life, but it is clear that he misses the excitement, camaraderie and respect he found on the range. But “life is to be lived with your eyes looking forward,” and the cowboy way of life is all but gone (p. 130).

The art in this book is phenomenal. DuBurke uses the pen drawings of the characters and actions in the foreground to convey motion, and the action comes alive. The pictures truly tell the story as well as the words, capturing the essence and tone of the Old West. DuBurke clearly depicts characters from the time period without overburdening the reader (or the pictures) with too much detail, and he uses many iconic images of cowboys and the West.

The juxtaposition of the pen drawings in the foreground and the acrylics in the background (the division man and nature) is also really nice. The shades of grey in the pen drawings really highlight the vivid colors of the almost impressionistic backgrounds, really highlighting the natural beauty of the landscapes through which Nat rides.

This book is on my Top Ten Favorites list for this class.

Media Used: Acrylic and pen.

Author’s Website: No author website

Illustrator’s Website

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