The True West: Real Stories About Black Cowboys, Women Sharpshooters, Native American Rodeo Stars, Pioneering Vaqueros, Celebrity Showmen, and the Unsung Heroes in the Wild West

Bushel & Peck. May 2020. 48p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781733633512.
Gr 4-6–Ever heard of Bass Reeves, Mamie Francis Hafley, Fox Hastings, or Henry O. Flipper? These names may not be as familiar as others spotlighted in this book (Calamity Jane and Wild Bill Hickok), but Lowe’s intention, as indicated in the book’s lengthy subtitle, is to showcase diverse historical figures “from every race, gender, and ethnicity” who contributed to the development of the West. Eighteen fascinating individuals are each portrayed in a two-page spread that includes biographical information, a somewhat stylized portrait, a photograph of the person (if available), and related facts. Readers learn that Flipper was the first African American to graduate from West Point in 1877 and that Hastings ran away from a convent when she was 16 and became a famous rodeo star. Hafley was known for the incredible daredevil tricks she did while riding her horse; Bass Reeves was a pragmatic Black lawman who captured and arrested more than 3,000 criminals. Other pages provide information about collective groups and topics, such as the Buffalo Soldiers, the Chinese railroad workers, wagon trains, and traditions started by Mexican cowboys, all of which are more broadly addressed. However, pertinent historical events such as the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 are not addressed. Additional resources and extensive art and photo credits are included. The colorful, attractive layout is not too busy, and the artwork is vibrant.
VERDICT A mixed bag of interesting, underrepresented historical figures and facts about the establishment of the American West. A good starting point for students curious about early Western frontier life.

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