This short historical fiction book is perfect for tweens interested in the Wild West. We recognize names like Buffalo Bill, Butch Cassidy, and Wyatt Earp with their questionable heroics in a wild time, but not many have heard of the truly heroic Bass Reeves. One of the most successful federal marshals in the late 1800s, Reeves worked in Indian Territory arresting criminals and fighting for justice against amazing odds. Reeves, the only recorded African American marshal, was known for his honest devotion to duty as well as his uncanny ability to get out of tight spots.
Little is recorded about this hero of the Wild West, but Paulsen has combined known facts with fiction to create a compelling historical figure. Paulsen creates a believable childhood and combines that story with actually known events to show the shaping of this man. The reading is interesting for all ages, but it does deal with the violence that so filled that time period—raiding Indians as well as the cruelty of white men. None of the writing is explicit, but the themes make it better for 10 and older.