Cover image for Let 'er buck! : George Fletcher, the people's champion
Let 'er buck! : George Fletcher, the people's champion
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1 volume (unpaged) : color illustrations ; 29 cm.
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African American George Fletcher loved horses from an early age. When he unfairly lost the 1911 Pendleton Round-Up to a white man, the outraged audience declared him "people's champion." --


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Book J 921 FLETCHER 1 1
Book J 921 FLETCHER 1 1
Book J 921 FLETCHER 1 1
Book J 921 FLETCHER 1 1

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"Nelson plaits her narrative with Western lingo and homespun similes. . . . James' painterly oils swirl with energy, visible daubs creating the dusty, monumental landscape and equally monumental horses and humans. . . . A champion indeed." --Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
The true tale of a cowboy's epic rodeo ride from acclaimed author Vaunda Micheaux Nelson and Caldecott Honoree Gordon C. James.
In 1911, three men were in the final round of the famed Pendleton Round-Up. One was white, one was Indian, and one was black. When the judges declared the white man the winner, the audience was outraged. They named black cowboy George Fletcher the "people's champion" and took up a collection, ultimately giving Fletcher far more than the value of the prize that went to the official winner. Award-winning author Vaunda Micheaux Nelson tells the story of Fletcher's unlikely triumph with a western flair that will delight kids--and adults--who love true stories, unlikely heroes, and cowboy tales.

Reviews 6

Publisher's Weekly Review

Colloquial narration by Nelson (The Book Itch) pairs with striking oil-on-board paintings by James (Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut) to introduce readers to African-American cowboy George Fletcher. Living in Pendleton, Ore., at the turn of the 20th century, Fletcher "suffered meanness and hurt because of his skin color." He also "found a kinship" with children from the Umatilla Indian Reservation and "watched the tribal horsemen and listened well." Most of the book focuses on Fletcher's entry in the 1911 Pendleton Round-Up, the Northwest's largest rodeo, where Fletcher lost the bronc riding finals despite a show-stealing ride. The local sheriff, sensing prejudice in the judges' decision, raised prize money on the spot for Fletcher, who was dubbed "the People's Champion." Broad brush strokes paint expressive faces and dynamic scenes of horse and rider; one spread depicts Fletcher atop a bucking horse in several positions, bringing the picture to life. Extensive back matter delves deeper into the lives of Fletcher, his competitors, and the fair-minded sheriff, Tillman Taylor. A glossary of rodeo and western words and a selected bibliography wrap up this triumphant tale of fairness trumping prejudice for a wrangler extraordinaire. Ages 8-12. (Feb.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Horn Book Review

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 (18901973). It wasnt easy being one of the few black people in Pendleton, Oregon, but grow-?ing up he found kinship with the Umatilla Indian Reservations children, and from the tribal horsemen he learned to tame horses. At sixteen he began rid-?ing for prizes, though black riders werent always allowed in competitions or treated fairly in them. The book showcases Fletchers 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, Peoples Champion! Nelsons 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 Jamess (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. autumn allen January/February 2019 p 117(c) Copyright 2018. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Booklist Review

*Starred Review* George Fletcher's African American family took the Oregon Trail from Kansas when he was 10 years old. After settling in Pendleton, Oregon, he became friends with children living on the Umatilla Indian Reservation and grew up with a passion for horses and a talent for taming a horse without breaking what he loved so much its spirit. This picture-book biography is filled with Fletcher's own spirit as, despite facing prejudice in his attempts to enter and be judged fairly in rodeos, he became an expert in riding a bucking bronco. In a pivotal 1911 competition, he placed second to a white man despite the crowd's and even the local sheriff's belief in George's superior horsemanship, and the dramatic accounts of before, during, and after this episode are enthralling. The fantastic colloquial language is atmospheric without being overwrought (he took to their ways like a wet kitten to a warm brick ), and the excellent and thorough back matter includes insight into Coretta Scott King Award-winning Nelson's research process. Caldecott Honor Book illustrator James' oil-on-board illustrations are magnificent, utilizing a dusty yet rich palette in a variety of double-page spreads, single-page portraits, and spot art to show exciting action scenes that match the energy of the text. A distinguished depiction of men and horses, and an under-told piece of history from the Old West.--Andrew Medlar Copyright 2019 Booklist

New York Review of Books Review

The life of a legendary cowboy, a tribute to the poet Gwendolyn Brooks, a shout-out to hip-hop and more. African-American picture books have always been successful at capturing the breadth, depth and beauty of the black experience, allowing children to gain muchneeded access to the strong legacy and vibrant history of African-American art and storytelling. But how we present this story is always undergoing revision and refinement, as four new books - from a closer view of plantation life to a visually rich depiction of the history of hip-hop - show. In these books, word and art combine to give us fresh insight into the lives, creativity and achievements of a truly resilient and profound people. James E. Ransome's the bell rang (Atheneum, 40 pp., $17.99; ages 4 to 8) beautifully captures several days in the life of an enslaved girl living with her family on a plantation. Plantation life is seen through the innocent yet fiercely observant eyes of the young, nameless narrator. Each day begins with the ringing of a bell, a warm hug, a loving kiss on the forehead or a gentle touch on the shoulder, followed by a simple goodbye from her big brother, Ben. Ransome doesn't shy away from the trauma of slavery, but he balances the terror that sits at the core of the story with moments of joy, skillfully painting a subtle smile across the young girl's face when she's given a doll, or the shadows of children running, skipping rope and playing hopscotch. We don't witness the daily, backbreaking work in the field, and a whipping happens offstage, but we do see the pervasive, watchful overseers, with their guns and their hound dog. At one point Ransome paints tears streaming down Mama's face, Daddy's bowed head against a wall with our narrator leaning against him, and an overseer with clenched fists standing in a doorway. "No sun in the sky. Mama crying. No Ben. Daddy crying. Ben ran," he writes. The book's color palette, strong on grays and pale blues, conveys its honest yet hopeful depiction of its young narrator's situation. We are left with the question, Will she run, too, some day? In "The Bell Rang" Ransome has given us a bittersweet slice of plantation life, one in which innocence, familial love and safety are juxtaposed with pain, loss and the resilience of the enslaved. LET 'ER BUCK! George Fletcher, the People's Champion (Carolrhoda, 40 pp., $18.99; ages 4 to 8), written by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson ("Bad News for Outlaws") and illustrated by the Newbery Honor winner Gordon C. James ("Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut"), tells the story of the black cowboy George Fletcher, whose journey began when his family set out on the Oregon Trail from their Kansas town. After they met with racism, young George found solace among the children on the Umatilla Indian Reservation in eastern Oregon. There, he nurtured his love of riding with a make-believe bronco, but over time, the tribal horsemen taught George how to "buck." He became a star at local rodeos, even while being shut out of more popular ones, which opposed black cowboys competing against white cowboys. But in 1911 the 21year-old George competed against the fiercest cowboys in the Northwest: the Néz Percé Indian Jackson Sundown and the white rancher John Spain. What follows is a detailed account, rendered adroitly through Nelson's clear prose and James's elegant paintings, of one of the most important rodeo shows in American history, which established Fletcher as the "people's champion" - even though the judge declared Spain the winner. With its energetic pairing of words and art, "Let 'er Buck!" comes alive to unearth an unsung American hero. Gwendolyn Brooks, who died in 2000, was one of the most important, prolific and distinguished poets of her time, and as with most brilliant artists, her creative force was evident when she was a child. In A SONG FOR GWENDOLYN BROOKS (Sterling, 32 pp., $17.99; ages 4 to 8), Alice Faye Duncan and Xia Gordon unfurl Brooks's evolution from a precocious girl growing up in Chicago through her boundary-breaking accomplishments, including the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1950. "Sing a song for Gwendolyn Brooks. Sing it loud - a Chicago blues," Duncan's text begins. Gordon's soft, velvety, earth-toned illustrations convey the sweetness and innocence of Gwendolyn's imagination, set against the vibrant urban landscape of her childhood. Duncan mimics the short, poignant stanzas and lyrical observations in many of Brooks's poems - a few of which are placed throughout, beginning with "The Busy Clock," written in 1928 when she was 11. Yet it is the way Duncan conveys the unwavering family support of Brooks's creativity that most stands out. "Her parents are wise and see the light.... Gwendolyn is free to sit and think," she writes. Brooks writes and rewrites a poem titled "Ambition" between 1930 and 1933, as she went from 13 to 16 years old, and Duncan uses it to illustrate the persistence, isolation and deep self-reflection that poetry required of Brooks. As she goes on to achieve fame, we are reminded that the joyous freedom of her work traces back to the remarkable achievements of a child poet. THE ROOTS OF RAP: 16 Bars on the Pillars of Hip-Hop (Little Bee, 32 pp., $18.99; ages 4 to 8) captures a specific African-American experience - one that is rooted in jazz, hiphop and the liveliness of urban culture. Carole Boston Weatherford's 16 bars of homage to the history of hip-hop accompany the celebrated illustrator Frank Morrison's pulsing and vibrant images, which not only convey the development of hiphop, they dance on the page. The opening pages are a tip of the baseball cap to the poets Langston Hughes and Paul Lawrence Dunbar, as well as to James Brown - innovators of spoken word and funk music, and thus contributors to the roots of hip-hop. Graffiti figures prominently throughout the book, too, as it is a foundational aesthetic in hip-hop, and provides a colorful backdrop to the groovin' and movin' black children who populate the illustrations. The well-placed centerfold illustration is of a cool and smooth DJ Kool Here, known as the founding father of hip-hop, with his turntable and mic. "DJ Kool Here in the Bronx, block party under his command, rocks and rocks nonstop; mic clutched in his hand," Weatherford writes. While "The Roots of Rap" certainly does document the history of hip-hop, Weatherford forgoes the ingenious wordplay, jazzy meter and funky rhyme scheme found in early rap songs like the Sugar Hill Gang's "Rapper's Delight" and Kurtis Blow's "The Breaks." ft is Morrison's illustrations that give "The Roots of Rap" its beat, its bass, rhythm and soul. ibi zoboi is the author of the novels "American Street" and "Pride" and the editor of the anthology "Black Enough: Stories of Being Young and Black in America."

School Library Journal Review

Gr 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.-Jennifer Costa, Cambridge Public Library, MA © Copyright 2019. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus Review

Honing skills first learned from Umatilla, Walla Walla, and Cayuse friends in eastern Oregon, African-American cowboy George Fletcher bucked his way into legend at the 1911 Pendleton Round-Up.Nelson introduces readers to George as a boy learning his craft on the Umatilla Indian Reservation near Pendleton, where his family settled after moving from Kansas. Racism from the local whites cemented his friendship with the Native kids, and he absorbed their lessons in horsemanship. From the age of 16, he competed in rodeos that didn't exclude black competitors. Nelson plaits her narrative with Western lingo and homespun similes: "Ranching fit George like made-to-measure boots." The centerpiece of her narrative is the 1911 Pendleton Round-Up, where 21-year-old George competed against Nez Perce cowboy Jackson Sundown and white rancher John Spain. Here, Nelson puts as much effort into developing their broncs as characters as she does the humans, drawing from meticulous primary-source research to place readers in the moment. Although George mesmerized the audience with his skill, Spain was awarded first placean act of unfairness recognized by the local sheriff, a decent white man, who spontaneously led a successful effort to anoint George "People's Champion." James' painterly oils swirl with energy, visible daubs creating the dusty, monumental landscape and equally monumental horses and humans. Six pages of backmatter include a glossary, bibliography, further information on Fletcher and other key players, and a fascinating discussion of the research challenges Nelson encountered.A champion indeed. (Picture book/biography. 6-10) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.