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WILD WOMEN OF THE WILD WEST by Jonah Winter

WILD WOMEN OF THE WILD WEST

By Jonah Winter (Author) , Susan Guevara (Illustrator)

Age Range: 9 - 12

Pub Date: Oct. 15th, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-8234-1601-1
Publisher: Holiday House

A good idea by a fine author and illustrator goes somewhat awry in this middle-grade collective biography of 15 women of the Old West.

Winter gets in trouble right away with the introduction, in which he tries and fails to define the Wild West, with sentences like “There weren’t too many women in the Wild West, so the few who were there had to be really wild to compete with all those raucous men.” The women chosen are fascinating and often little known: the formerly enslaved Mary Fields, who drove a stagecoach for the U.S. Postal Service and was just its second woman employee; Lola Montez and Lotta Crabtree, wildly popular Gold Rush entertainers; and The-Other-Magpie, a Crow woman warrior. Though no doubt intended to be rollicking and engaging, the prose instead often seems patronizing or flip. Is it important that both Esther Morris, Wyoming suffragist and judge, and Carry Nation, anti-alcohol crusader, were both six feet tall and about 180 pounds? The biography of Santa Fe casino owner "La Tules" ends by saying that Mexico "continues to bring us Mexicans." Guevara notes that all but two of the sepia-and-black–accented watercolor portraits were taken directly from photographs of their subjects.

Young researchers eager to know more about outlaw Belle Starr and adventurer and philanthropist Nellie Cashman might start here, but they will have to move on to more reliable sources. (timeline, map) (Collective biography. 9-12)