Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Legends of the West: Buffalo Bill

Legends of the West: Buffalo Bill

Michael E. Goodman
Nonfiction
For ages 12 and up
The Creative Company, 2005   ISBN: 978-1583413364

William Frederick “Buffalo Bill” Cody was one of those people who seemed to embody the essence of the real Wild West. When he was still a young boy his father died and Bill had to find a job. Being good with horses Bill was hired to be a messenger and teamster on wagon trains. He then went on to be a Pony Express rider. The venture only lasted eighteen months but the Pony Express would have a lasting impression on the country and many felt that the riders embodied the spirit of the rough and dangerous life out west.

Later, while he was serving in the Union Army, Bill met the young woman who would become his wife. Louisa wanted a quiet settled life but this was exactly the opposite of what adventurous and restless Bill wanted. Instead Bill took jobs as a stagecoach driver, a scout for the U.S. Cavalry, and a hunter of buffalo. This latter job is what gave him the name that would set him on the road to becoming a true Wild West legend.

Bill really started to become famous when Ned Buntline began to write mostly fictitious dime novels about Bill’s exploits. Hundreds of these books were published and they were immensely popular with the general public. Then Bill began to perform in plays, playing himself, and thus it was that his acting career began. In 1882 Bill put together a special Fourth of July celebration in the town of North Platte, Nevada. It was the first Wild West show that he arranged and it was so successful that he decided to build a touring show which was later called “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West.”

This show ended up touring all over the United States, Canada, England and France. Thousands of people flocked to see sharp shooting, cattle drives, real Native Americans, Pony Express riders and more. It brought the romance of the Wild West to towns all over and it made Buffalo Bill a household name.

With wonderful photographs and superb reproductions of old show play bills, this account of the life of Buffalo Bill is both entertaining and informative. The author takes care to discuss some of the criticism that has been made of Buffalo Bill’s doings, making sure that his readers get both sides of the story.

This is one of the titles in the “Legends of the West” series.

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