FICTION

The Outlaw

illus. by Nancy Vo. 42p. House of Anansi/Groundwood. May 2018. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781773060163.
COPY ISBN
Vo provides readers with a picture-book Western that upends many of the genre's gunslinging shootout- and revenge-?narrative tropes. A small (unnamed) frontier town is threatened by an ?"Outlaw" known by his "trail of misdeeds"; much to the townspeople's relief, he then vanishes and over time is forgotten. Many seasons pass, and a stranger arrives who quietly begins rebuilding the now-battered town-making a new water trough, mending a roof, repairing a train platform. Then someone recognizes him as the Outlaw, and he is set upon by an angry mob. A young thief (who we've seen in the illustrations being protected and rehabilitated by the Outlaw) steps forward in support of the man ("Leave him alone! He's trying"), convincing some townsfolk, but not others. Nonetheless, the Outlaw is permitted to stay and make amends, and as Vo states on a final double-page spread, "maybe that was what mattered in the end." The ink and largely grayscale watercolor illustrations, along with an intriguing newspaper transfer technique, pair well with the spare, contemplative text. patrick gall

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