Great Illustrated Books

Best Shot in the West: The Adventures of Nat Love

By McKissack, Patricia C, Frederick L. McKissack, and illustrated by Randy Duburke

Chronicle Books, 2012
Pages : 129
Suggested Ages: 12 and Up
ISBN: 9780811857499

In this graphic novel, the mild-mannered train porter who wrangles a stampeding horse before it stomps on a child is none other than Nat Love, aka Deadwood Dick. An old friend who witnesses the rescue encourages Love, once widely known as a crack shot, roper, and bronco buster, to write up his Old West adventures.

And what adventures they are! As the tale unfolds, the palette changes from dreary hues to vivid crimson, gold, and turquoise, reflecting the colors of the Old West and his vibrant life.

The McKissacks base the story on Love’s autobiography published in 1907. Love introduces himself simply enough: “I grew up in a different time in America.” Indeed, he was born into slavery. To make money after emancipation, Love breaks colts. One especially challenging mount, The Black Highwayman, sets Love on his path. In three nearly wordless spreads, readers get caught up in the wild, dramatic ride that concludes with Love’s triumph. Soon after, he heads to Dodge City, the Cowboy Capital, where he joins up with a cattle team and gets a trial by fire when the outfit is attacked. A survivor, Love discovers he is no longer afraid of death. He becomes expert with a gun, is a brave fighter, and can hang on in any stampede. In fact, Nat Love becomes one of the most famous cowboys in the West.

The art sets the pace and captures the excitement, varying from close-ups that depict the emotion-filled tense moments to full-page and full-spread scenes that illustrate the expansive nature of the Old West. Readers will relish the anecdotes, action, and freedom of a time long past. With the advent of the railroad, the West is modernized and the lifestyle ends, leaving Love with many memories and no regrets. Love’s new-found fans will take heart in his closing words, “Life is to be lived with your eyes looking forward, not looking back.”

Reviewed by : JMcD


If you love this book, then try:

Nelson, Kadir. We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball. Hyperion Book, 2008.

Hoose, Phillip M. We Were There, Too!: Young People in U.S. History. FSG, 2001.

Critics have said

A fine introduction to a little-known piece of Americana.
Publishers Weekly

A perfect use of the graphic format to celebrate the life of a legendary American. History that's fun to read, and important.
Kirkus Reviews