Review of Let ’Er Buck!: George Fletcher, the People’s Champion

Let ’Er Buck!: George Fletcher, the People’s Champion
by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson; illus. by Gordon C. James
Primary, Intermediate    Carolrhoda    40 pp.    g
2/19    978-1-5124-9808-0    $18.99
e-book ed.  978-1-5145-4180-1    $18.99

Nelson (Bad News for Outlaws, rev. 11/09) returns to the Old West for this engrossing picture-book biography of African American cowboy and bronc buster George Fletcher (1890–1973). It wasn’t easy being one of the few black people in Pendleton, Oregon, but grow
ing up he “found kinship” with the Umatilla Indian Reservation’s children, and from the tribal horsemen he learned to tame horses. At sixteen he began rid
ing for prizes, though black riders weren’t always allowed in competitions or treated fairly in them. The book showcases Fletcher’s determination to prove him-
self, starting with smaller events and then focusing on the major event of his riding life: the 1911 Pendleton Round-Up. The first rider, a Nez Perce Indian, was dis
qualified for losing a stirrup; the second, Fletcher, thrilled the crowd; but the judges awarded the third rider, a white man, first place. The book, however, ends on a hopeful note: the crowd honored Fletcher publicly, collecting their own prize money for him and raising him on their shoulders, chanting, “People’s Champion!” Nelson’s folksy language (“Ranching fit George like made-to-measure boots. Life in the saddle and riding rough were all he hankered for”) brings readers right into the era, and James’s (Crown, rev. 11/17) bold brushstrokes give the illustrations a dynamic feel suitable for the subject. Extensive back matter includes a glossary, source notes, and further information about the round-up and its participants.

From the January/February 2019 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.
Autumn Allen
Autumn Allen

Autumn Allen is an educator, writer, critic and independent scholar of children's and young adult literature. She holds an MA-MFA in children's literature and writing for children from Simmons University, and a master's degree in education from Harvard University. She is the 2020-2021 Writer in Residence at the Boston Public Library.

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