Young readers may be familiar with the names Billy the Kid, Wyatt Earp and Buffalo Bill from history class, but they probably have never heard of Bass Reeves.
In "The Legend of Bass Reeves" (Wendy Lamb, $15.95), award-winning author Gary Paulsen breathes life into the story where there is little on record about Reeves' amazing life. He combines truth and fiction to create a compelling story that will captivate both young readers and history buffs.
Born into slavery in 1824, Reeves grew up helping his master with all of the chores on the ranch, and by the time he was a teenager became a skilled hunter and rider. And though the laws of his country enslaved him and his mother, when he became a free man he served the law, with such courage and honor that he became a legend.
He was the most successful federal marshal in the United States in his day. True to the mythical code of the West, he never drew his gun first. He brought hundreds of fugitives to justice, and was shot at countless times and never hit. Many "heroic lawmen" of the Wild West, familiar to us through television and film, were actually violent scoundrels and outlaws themselves. But of all the sheriffs of the frontier, one man stands out as a true hero: Bass Reeves.
Paulsen's account of the real life of Bass Reeves is an important story, and one that will educate young readers about slavery, the Indian Territories and a part of the Wild West left virtually untapped. Bass Reeves will finally receive the attention he has always deserved.