Mary Fields, a woman and former slave, breaks barriers working as a stagecoach driver in 1895.
Telegraphs and trains bring supplies and messages to Cascade, Montana, but to get through the mountains to St. Peter’s Mission requires a stagecoach. The stagecoach driver also acts as guard against outlaws and wild animals; one needs to be “smart, tough, unshakable.…Mary Fields is all of those things.” Of course, no one believes that a woman, much less a former slave, can do this job. But Mary is determined to show the hiring manager that she can outperform any of the male candidates. She shows off her skills, and she gets the job, the first black woman in the country to do so. With her map- and star-reading skills, her trained eagle, her long gun, her courage, and her determination, Mary rides for eight years, into her 70s. Her bravery is remembered in Cascade, and now young readers can be inspired by it too. Charles does a fine job of shaping a suspenseful story from few historical details, inventing some dialogue and rearranging the timeline a bit, as she describes in her author’s note. From the moment Mary rides into town, readers will be hooked. The illustrations, in hues of brown, green, and blue, successfully evoke the small, Western town and the mountains; the humans and animals have faces that display an animation aesthetic.
A wild ride through an impressive bit of history. (Picture book. 4-9)