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Monday, September 17, 2018

The Outlaw, written and illustrated by Nancy Vo. Groundwood Books, 2018. $17.95 ages 6 and up

"Children were warned,
"Be good or else the Outlaw
will get you!"

Then, one day, the Outlaw
stopped coming into town
Everyone was relieved.
Everyone believed that he was as
good as gone.

Many seasons passed ... "

It is quite extraordinary the impact that one person can have! In a small town in the Old West, the Outlaw has such power. They had all heard the rumors and knew what he had done. His reputation caused them to live in trepidation of what he might do. Villagers boarded up businesses, children were given dire warnings, and the relief was palpable when he no longer came to town.

When a stranger rides into town after much time has passed, the town itself has changed.

"The town was a shadow of
itself and in need of repair.
Deftly, decisively, the stranger
went to work.
First he built a water trough
in front of the inn where he
was staying."

He went about doing good work every day ... until someone recognized him as 'the outlaw.' Despite all he had done, memories of his past came to the fore and he was treated miserably by many. Leave it to a child to take the adults to task, reminding them that the man was doing his best to improve things. Some were willing to hear the child; others were not.

Was the outlaw willing to stay? What do you think?

Using essential text to tell this story of redemption makes it all the more powerful. The ink and watercolor artwork conveys emotion at every turn of the page, and provides context for young readers. The simplicity of the stark scenes allows all readers to know about time and place. As dramatic and unconventional as this is for young readers, it is an exceptional book.

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