Let 'Er Buck!

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 15 Feb 2019

Member Reviews

George Fletcher was an incredibly talented cowboy and rider, yet he was only given second place at the 1911 Pendleton Round-Up. The author traces George's early life as his family took the Oregon Trail to the Northwest, his friendship with the children on the Umatilla Reservation, his lifelong love of horses, and the story of that historic rodeo. The illustrations capture the spirit of the horses and riders. The sense of movement comes across clearly in images of George "riding a make-believe bronco" or riding back to back on the same bucking horse with cowboy Jesse Stahl. But  George's love of horses is also shown, especially in an image of young George blowing lightly into a horse's face.

Stories of individuals who persevere and follow their passion despite prejudice are always a welcome addition to classroom and library collections. It is also good to have a wider variety of individuals to read about during Black History Month than the few Civil Rights figures that most lessons focus on. Authors such as Vaunda, who research stories that have been left out of the history books, help to fill gaps in our understanding and collective knowledge.

I read an advance copy provided by the publisher through NetGalley.
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The art is well suited to the topic, giving the reader the idea of movement on the page. The use of language gives young readers a great flavor of the time and setting of the book without being too complicated to understand. The back matter is wonderfully detailed and lets the reader know that the author did his work well and even the names of the horses was researched. This is an original story that will be fun and educational for young readers.
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In this picture book biography  of George Fletcher, a black rodeo cowboy, the words and illustrations work seamlessly together to bring to life the time and place in which Fletcher lived. Author Vaunda Micheaux Nelson’s lively text (“Ranching fit George like made-to-measure boots”) and illustrator Gordon James’ emotion-packed illustrations evoke a time—the early 1900s—when discrimination based on race was not uncommon, but also not universally accepted. This book is a tribute to George Fletcher’s persistence, but also to others who supported him. An excellent book to read and share with children.
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George Fletcher moved to Pendleton, Oregon, a place where there weren’t a lot of African-Americans. He made friends with the children from the Umatilla Indian Reservation and learned how to train horses with gentleness. George started riding in competitions at age 16, though he was often shut out of competitions because of the color of his skin or judged unfairly. He got his chance to really show off his skill at the 1911 Pendleton Round-Up, the biggest rodeo in the Northwest. He made the top three finalists for the Saddle Bronc Championship. He outrode the other two competitors, and when the white person was named champion the crowd booed. One man in the crowd decided it wasn’t alright and sold small pieces of George’s hat to the crowd for $5 each. He turned the money over to George and it ended up being more than the grand prize. George was crowned the “People’s Champion” that day.

Nelson writes with a lovely western twang in this nonfiction picture book. She captures the spirit of the west in the words she uses and in particular in her metaphors. George took to the ways of the Umatilla tribes “like a wet kitten to a warm brick.” Ranching suited George “like made-to-measure boots.” These are just two examples of the vivid way that Nelson uses language to firmly place her book in its setting. She also creates a compelling portrait of Fletcher and faces the inherent racism of the system head on.

The illustrations by James are full of color and motion. Created with oil on board, they are a stunning mix of movement, depth and history. One can almost see the action playing out from the lines he uses. Stunning

A strong picture book about racism, horses, rodeos and heroism. Appropriate for ages 4-8.
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This new children's biography featuring the 1911 Pendleton Round-up will capture hearts and minds with its down home narrative and gorgeous watercolor illustrations. Phrases like "Life at home was no bushel of peaches either" and "like a wet kitten on a warm brick" contribute a strong sense of setting as does the Rodeo and Western Words Glossary included in the book. Finally detailed bios on the main characters of the book include interesting details about the lives of the men in the book. 

Thank you to Lerner Publishing for providing a digital ARC of this beautiful new biography.
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Let 'Er Buck! George Fletcher, the People's Champion by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson is a wonderful picture book about the true story of George Fletcher. 

The illustrations are done in what appears to be an oil painting effect, which adds to the books overall appeal and character. The vibrant colors, soft detail, and the excellent use of brush strokes to direct the eye towards the action, really excite me. 

This book will appeal to teachers to looking to create lesson plans as it mentions other cowboys of color who may not be as well known. The book also features a wonderful glossary of rodeo and western words students would love. 

Overall, Let 'Er Buck George Fletcher, the People's Champion is a wonderful children's non-fiction book full about a man that may not be as known as he should be. This is a wonderful way to introduce children to lesser-known black history figures.

Highly Recommend.
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One of my favorite types of book to introduce students to in the library is the "unknown" biography. This biography about rodeo rider/cowboy George Fletcher will be a great addition to our school's collection. It's hard to find African American historical biographies that are not based in the South. ( Pacific Northwest!) Gordon C James's illustrations compliment the books focus on George and the other people satisfactorily, but really shines in bringing the horses and the historical setting to life. described. The author provides a lot of back/end notes which gives readers many options for further research.
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Nelson's book about George Fletcher was a wonderful read with fantastic illustrations. Georges life was, like so many others at the turn of the century, rough, but he found a way to use that to his advantage. Finding a new life with local Native American tribes near Pendleton, Oregon, George found he was meant to ride horses. Nelson's story focuses on the 1911 Pendleton Roundup and George's participation in the saddle bronc competition. After being denied the win, he became the people's champion. This was a fantastic story of being true to oneself regardless of what others do.

Thank you NetGalley and Lerner Publishing for the opportunity to read an advance copy.
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