Let 'Er Buck!: George Fletcher, the People's Champion

illus. by Gordon C. James. 40p. bibliog. photos. Carolrhoda. Feb. 2019. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781512498080.
RedReviewStarGr 3–6—Growing up in Eastern Oregon at the turn of the 20th century, George Fletcher discovered a love for horses at an early age: by 16, "life in the saddle and riding rough were all he hankered for." He competed in rodeos and performed stunts in Wild West shows, aiming for prizes, but Nelson notes "When he was allowed to compete, the judges hardly ever treated him fair." Readers will be mesmerized by lyrical, conversational prose that describes the "rhythm of the ride, the rise and fall, the whirl and twirl, the spin and swerve" of Fletcher's rodeo moves. James captures the energy of the bucking horses and the tension and grace of the riders in vibrant oil-on-board paintings. A vivid close-up image depicts the horses' tossing heads, bared teeth, and wide eyes. The end notes include a more complete biographical sketch of Fletcher and information about the other two riders in the Saddle Bronc Championship of 1911, Jackson Sundown and John Spain. Nelson's discussion about her research process is particularly strong: she clearly identifies her sources, and when evidence is scant, she justifies her authorial decisions.
VERDICT An excellent choice for most biography collections. The rollicking language and gorgeous art make this a terrific read-aloud and conversation starter for older elementary students.

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