Let 'Er Buck!

George Fletcher, the People's Champion

  • Interest Level: Grade 3 - Grade 6
  • Reading Level: Grade 4

“Nelson plaits her narrative with Western lingo and homespun similes. . . . James’ painterly oils swirl with energy, visible daubs creating the dusty, monumental landscape and equally monumental horses and humans. . . . A champion indeed.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
The true tale of a cowboy’s epic rodeo ride from acclaimed author Vaunda Micheaux Nelson and Caldecott Honoree Gordon C. James.

In 1911, three men were in the final round of the famed Pendleton Round-Up. One was white, one was Indian, and one was black. When the judges declared the white man the winner, the audience was outraged. They named black cowboy George Fletcher the “people’s champion” and took up a collection, ultimately giving Fletcher far more than the value of the prize that went to the official winner. Award-winning author Vaunda Micheaux Nelson tells the story of Fletcher’s unlikely triumph with a western flair that will delight kids—and adults—who love true stories, unlikely heroes, and cowboy tales.

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Interest Level Grade 3 - Grade 6
Reading Level Grade 4
Genre Picture Books
Category 5 Kinds of Nonfiction, 5KN: Narrative Nonfiction, Diverse Books: #OwnVoices, Diverse Books: Race & Ethnicity, Diverse Books: Social Justice, Diversity
Copyright 2019
Publisher Lerner Publishing Group
Imprint Carolrhoda Books ®
Language English
Number of Pages 40
Publication Date 2019-02-05
Text Type Narrative Nonfiction
BISACS JNF007050, JNF054170, JNF053140
Dewey 791.8/4092 [B]
Graphics Full-color illustrations
Dimensions 9.25 x 11
Lexile 880
Guided Reading Level V
ATOS Reading Level 4.7
Accelerated Reader® Quiz 501314
Accelerated Reader® Points 0.5
Features Author/Illustrator biography, Author/Illustrator note, Awards, Bibliography/further reading, Glossary, Original artwork, Reviewed, and Starred Reviews

Author: Vaunda Micheaux Nelson

Vaunda Micheaux Nelson is the author of The Book Itch, as well as three Coretta Scott King Award-winning books: No Crystal Stair, Bad News for Outlaws, and Almost to Freedom. She is a former youth services librarian in New Mexico. Visit her online at vaundanelson.com.

Illustrator: Gordon C. James

As a fine artist, Gordon C. James works to achieve the highest level of beauty. His work has been in International Artist Magazine, and is part of the Paul R. Jones Collection. Gordon's illustrations, are soulful, and technically sound. He has won Caldecott and Coretta Scott King Honors, a Society of Illustrators Gold Medal, a Charlotte Huck Award, and the Kirkus Prize for his work. Gordon lives in Charlotte, NC with his wife Ingrid and their children Astrid and Gabriel and their dog Rascal.

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  • Grand Canyon Reader Award Nominee, Nominated, 2022
  • Capitol Choices Nominee, Nominated, 2020
  • Dogwood Book List for Nonfiction, Winner, 2020
  • Cooperative Children's Book Center (CCBC) Choices, Winner, 2020
  • Western Writers of America Spur Award Winner, Winner, 2020
  • ALA Notable Children's Books, Winner, 2020
  • NCSS/CBC Notable Social Studies Trade Books, Winner, 2020
  • 2020 Will Rogers Medallion Award Finalist, Short-listed, 2020
  • Children's Book Committee at Bank Street College Best Children's Book of the Year, Winner, 2020
  • Orbis Pictus Recommended Book, Commended, 2020
  • Booklist Top 10 Biographies for Youth, Winner, 2019
  • Booklist Top 10 Sports Books for Youth, Winner, 2019
  • New Mexico-Arizona Book Award, Winner, 2019
  • Chicago Public Library Best of the Best Books, Winner, 2019
  • Booklist Editors' Choice, Winner, 2019
  • Kirkus Best Children's Books, Winner, 2019


The New York Times Book Review

“With its energetic pairing of words and art, ‘Let ’Er Buck!’ comes alive to unearth an unsung American hero.”—The New York Times Book Review

School Library Journal

“An excellent choice for most biography collections. The rollicking language and gorgeous art make this a terrific read-aloud and conversation starter for older elementary students.”—starred, School Library Journal


“[E]nthralling. . . . A distinguished depiction of men and horses, and an under-told piece of history from the Old West.”—starred, Booklist

Publishers Weekly

“[A] triumphant tale of fairness trumping prejudice for a wrangler extraordinaire.”—starred, Publishers Weekly

The Horn Book Magazine

“[An] engrossing picture-book biography of African American cowboy and bronc buster George Fletcher.”—The Horn Book Magazine

Kirkus Reviews

“James’ painterly oils swirl with energy, visible daubs creating the dusty, monumental landscape and equally monumental horses and humans. . . . A champion indeed.”—starred, Kirkus Reviews