Booklist Reviews

Somewhat more sensationalistic than the book itself, the title gives short shrift to the many other skills and attributes that saw historical figure Nat Love through a rugged life in the Old West. A freed slave, cattle driver, master horseman, and, indeed, crack shot, Love adventured through many harrowing experiences and into contact with many other notables of the era, including Buffalo Bill Cody, Bat Masterson, and Billy the Kid. The writing makes little use of hyperbole, allowing the natural drama of horse-roping contests, a kidnapping by a Native American tribe, and driving cattle through a fierce lightning storm to hold readers' attention. The McKissacks also highlight the inherent fortitude and quick-wittedness of the man nicknamed Deadwood Dick, as well as the high value he placed on friendship. The unique art fills highly realistic figures (some even seem to be taken from old photos) and backgrounds with sprays of grainy color that make the story seem like it's coated in a patina of genuine history. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews

This enticing historical-fiction graphic novel reminds readers that not all cowboys were white. Born a slave in 1854 Tennessee, Nat Love gains his freedom, then gains respect and acceptance as a cowboy. While the story integrates maps, letters, and longer stretches of prose, the book knows when to rely on the power of image to move the story forward.

Horn Book Magazine Reviews

Cowboys are one of our most resonant historical and cultural icons, and the reality of cowboy history can get lost in a mix of legend and tall tales. This historical-fiction graphic novel based on Nat Love, a contemporary of Billy the Kid, reminds modern-day readers that not all cowboys were white. Born a slave in 1854 Tennessee, Love barely scrapes by once he gains his freedom. But he quickly gains respect as an expert in breaking any horse and wins acceptance as a cowboy, mastering the valued skills of sharp shooting, driving, and roping. For over twenty years he roams the vast emptiness of the prairies, fearing attack from hostile Indians and losing more than one friend to cattle or buffalo stampedes. The art, sketchy and highlighted with vivid color, shows how the dusty trails and vast skies feel rather than attempting to record every minute detail. The panels follow the customary rectangular sequence, making the action easy to parse; flat whites and shadows recall sepia photographs. While the story integrates maps, letters, and longer stretches of prose, the book knows when to rely on the power of image to move the story forward. The format and pacing make this an enticing way to hook readers on little-told histories and encourage the investigation of Love and his unsung fellows. robin brenner Copyright 2012 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews

On a train out of Denver in 1902, two old cowboys reminisce about the Old West. Nat Love is now a Pullman porter on the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad, but he was once "Deadwood Dick," a famous cowboy, every bit the equal to western heroes Bat Masterson, Calamity Jane, the Earps and Wild Bill Hickok. As a porter, he suffers rude treatment and racist comments, but when William Bugler boards the train, the "[w]orld's best shooter and [the] world's best scout" recall old times, and Bugler (an invented character) convinces Nat to write down his stories for his Kansas City newspaper. The remainder of the graphic novel is Nat's stories--his life as a slave in Davidson County, Tenn., his work as a cowpuncher and his 20 years of adventures in a world that no longer exists. The text is complemented by acrylic-and-pen full-color illustrations (seen only in black-and-white for review), in which DuBurke uses his experience as a comic-book artist to capture the dramatic energy of line and gesture, just right for a gun-slinging hero. A perfect use of the graphic format to celebrate the life of a legendary American. History that's fun to read…and important. (authors' note, illustrator's note) (Historical fiction. 10 & up) Copyright Kirkus 2011 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Library Journal Reviews

Among the rarely recognized African American cowboys, Nat Love made a name for himself, as Deadwood Dick, for his skillful riding, cattle handling, and marksmanship. Born a slave in Tennessee, he was taught to read by his father and, after emancipation, went west for a life of cattle drives, shooting contests, rodeo prizes, and other adventures. After he retired to work as a Pullman porter on the railroads, Love wrote his own autobiography, itself illustrated by someone named S. Campbell. DuBurke's blacks and whites illustrated Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty, but in this book written by the McKissack husband-and-wife team, who have co-authored more than 100 books on African American history, he works in lively color. - "Stories Behind Black and White " LJ Reviews 2/2/2012 (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Library Media Connection

Based on Nat Love's 1907 autobiography, this graphic novel is part biography, part historical fiction, and full of action and the harsh realities of an era long gone. With full-page acrylic and pen illustrations that seem to bring the Old West to life, this amazing tale of Nat Love's life is sure to please a variety of readers. The story is told through Nat's writings to a newspaper editor as he relives some of the highlights of his life. Nat Love's journey transcends multiple eras in American history, from slavery to the beginning of the 20th century. The graphics are nicely laid out and the text is easy to read making this a good choice for a wide range of reading abilities. The life of Nat Love was an extraordinary one, and this book does justice to his story. Nick Petrosino, School Librarian, Ridgeview Junior High, Pickerington, Ohio. RECOMMENDED Copyright 2012 Linworth Publishing, Inc.

LJ Express Reviews

Among the mostly unsung African American cowboys, Nat Love made his name as Deadwood Dick for skillful riding, cattle handling, and marksmanship while surviving capture by Indians and a run-in with lawman Bat Masterson. Born a slave in Tennessee, he was taught to read by his father and, after emancipation, went west for the life of the range and rodeo. As a cowboy, Love enjoyed 20 years of respect and adventure he would not have had otherwise in a newly reunited country that was to ache with slavery's legacy for more than a century. Thirty years of subsequent "retirement" as a railroad porter gave him time to write his autobiography, which the McKissacks, who have coauthored more than 100 books on African American history, here fictionalize only lightly and mine for lively anecdotes. DuBurke's people seem almost like black-and-white daguerreotypes set off within painted color backgrounds, which are more vivid in the action sequences. The effect gives a historical feel while lending visual interest. Verdict An attractive and addictive read for teens and up, this will appeal to fans of adventure comics and Westerns. A short list of books and web links would have been useful, such as Love's autobiography, available free online.-Martha Cornog, Philadelphia (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publishers Weekly Reviews

Although you wouldn't know it from typical cowboy stories and movies, about a quarter of actual cowhands were African-American, and this is the story of the most famous of them, the champion horse breaker and rifle shot known as Deadwood Dick. Nat Love was born into slavery in Tennessee, but left after emancipation to go to Dodge City, Kans., and find fortune as a cowboy. A nonstop run of cattle drives, shooting contests, and adventures in Indian Territory—interspersed with meetings with Bat Masterson and the like—follows until Love retires to become a Pullman porter. Based on his 1907 autobiography, much of this lively tale probably stretches the truth in the penny dreadful style of the day, but the McKissacks and DuBurke bring this world alive with judicious quotations—on buying his first suit of new clothes, Love says, "I looked like a man. I felt like a man"—and, in particular, dramatic full-color art. DuBurke channels elements of classic art of the Old West—the horses, guns, and Indians all feel authentic—while keeping strong characterization at the forefront. While a bit more history might have been welcome, the result is a fine introduction to a little-known piece of Americana. Ages 12–up. (Feb.)

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School Library Journal Reviews

Gr 3 Up—Born into slavery in Tennessee, Love left home to seek work and eventually became an expert roper and marksman in the Old West, an acquaintance of legends such as Bat Masterson and Billy the Kid. This fictionalized biography is based on his memoir, published in 1907. Exciting episodes include bucking broncos, runaway horses, and Apache raids, as well as Love's capture by hostile Native Americans, the drunken theft of a cannon from a U.S. Army fort, and the cowboy competition that gives the authors the right to call Love "The Best Shot in the West." DuBurke's muscular art features flying bullets, billowing dust, and driving rain. Panels tend to be large, the better to depict the wide open spaces of the Great Plains and the cattle, horses, and buffalo that Love lived and worked among. Exciting and picturesque, Nat Love's life makes for a great graphic novel.—Paula Willey, Baltimore County Public Library, Towson, MD

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Voice of Youth Advocates Reviews

Nat Love lived one of the most exciting and full lives of any American, yet not many teens know about him. This terrific graphic novel biography aims to change that. The book is framed as a letter Nat writes to a publisher, telling his life story. Born a slave in the 1850's, he had a knack for horses that led him to become one of the best cowboys ever. He was a crack shot, knew Billy the Kid and Bat Masterson, and was captured by, lived with, and escaped from Indians. When railroads changed the face of the West and ended the era of the cowboy, Nat married, took a job as a porter, and ended up seeing more of the country on the rails than he ever did on a horse The authors pull much of their information right from Love's own autobiography, lending an air of authenticity to their narrative. DuBurke's paintings are gorgeously colored.  His palette is of the wild west: warm golden light, rich browns, hot reds, startling glimpses of green, all covered with dust and haze. The brushwork allows him to show the blur of motion from a bucking horse, or the spatter of blood from a gunshot. It is sometimes hard to tell characters apart, but this is a small gripe with what is otherwise an impressively illustrated biography.  Love lived a fascinating life during a time of great change; his story is perfect to capture students' attention.—Geri Diorio 4Q 3P M J S Graphic Format Copyright 2011 Voya Reviews.