This is a well-written biography of William Cody and of the history of the Kansas Territory. It reads like a novel – full of action and suspense. Younger readers who have little knowledge of the events leading up to the statehood of Kansas will learn about the bloody fights that occurred while Kansas struggled to decide if it would be free or slave. Cody’s part in those events is not whitewashed, and some may be upset because the author clearly shows him taking part in things that we would consider criminal today.
John Brown and his followers are introduced, but only enough to pique the interest of the reader to look for more information about him. The reader will also learn a great deal about the Pony Express. At fourteen, Cody was the youngest rider on this circuit, and faced many dangers in doing his job. The short-lived Pony Express had a great impact on our history and on the life of Bill Cody.
The writer presents Cody as a very real person with a family that he loved and cared for. The latter years of his life and the Wild West Show for which he is most famous is discussed. The show itself had been criticized because he included Sitting Bull in it. Cody believed that the battle with Custer took place only because Sitting Bull’s tribe was trying to defend its families, and so he ignored the people who felt he should leave Sitting Bull out of the show. He was a gentleman who remained true to his beliefs and tried to leave the world a better place. Because of that, there are museums in several states which are dedicated to William Cody.
The text is well-researched and includes pictures, maps and additional notes to further help the reader. I definitely recommend this for upper elementary through high school readers.