The Legend of Bass Reeves by Gary Paulsen

Published: 2006

Genre: middle grade historical fiction

Length: 137 pages

Setting: Texas and Indian Territory, mid-1800s

Interest: I chose it for American History Club as being Alamo adjacent.

Summary: Bass Reeves was a real person and the book is composed of three fictionalized periods in his life. First is the timer period when he was a slave. His life was pretty good because Mister was a drunk, so Bass and his Mammy pretty much ran the ranch. Mister got bored, though, and liked to play poker, so he taught Bass the game. One night, he put Bass and his mammy’s freedom up for stakes and cheated to win. Bass caught him cheating and almost killed  Mister in retaliation. Bass had to run away to Indian territory. He kept away from other people, learning all the places to hide or find food and water. He saved an Indian girl from wolves and was adopted by her family. We pick up the story 20 years later when Bass is asked to be a Federal Marshal, bringing some law to the Indian Territory. We follow him as he goes after and captures or kills several outlaws, including his son.

Final thoughts: This was a great book and even better for being about a real person. My only disappointment was that the book was too short. I wanted more story. We didn’t get to spend any time with the Native Americans or when Bass was a rancher. The book did lend itself well to discussion. When Bass was young, Mammy had to go over the rules of how to act when Bass was going into town for the first time, which lead to a good discussion of slavery. We also talked quite a bit about the Trail of Tears and how European-Americans treated Native Americans (in short, terribly). Even with all the great discussion, the boys didn’t find it heavy. In fact, Mr. Curiosity’s friend said it was the best book we’ve read for American History Club yet. Bass Reeves was truly a hero in the Wild West, and yet, sadly, no one knows about him.

Title comes from: The subject of the book

Reading challenges fulfilled: a P in my author Reading the Alphabet Challenge, #19 in my Maybe 100 This Year Challenge

If you’re interested in purchasing the book, you can click on the cover image to follow an Amazon affiliate link to the book and thanks for supporting my blog!

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