Jesse Jamesby John Wukovits, Chelsea House Publishers (division of Main LineBook Co.), Philadelphia, Pa., 1997, $14.95.
Is there any reason why middle-school children shouldn’t know something about Jesse James–the real Jesse James that is, not the Hollywood versions? After all, the name never dies, even though the man died some 115 years ago and has been forced to share the spotlight with Lone Rangers, Power Rangers, Batmen and numerous other masked figures, good and bad. In today’s crime-filled world where many of our cities are a bit too wild for most Wild West fans, isn’t there room for a 19th-century badman, especially one who is considered a hero of sorts by a surprising number of today’s adults? If you don’t mind your children reading about Jesse, or you think you might even want to read to your younger children about him, then this book is for you. John Wukovits, a teacher who has written articles for Wild West and America’s Civil War magazines, ably presents the facts about Jesse’s life and legend in this 64-page book. The text should keep most young readers interested, with an assist from a good assortment of black-and-white photos. Jesse James is part of the “Legends of the West” series (Wyatt Earp, Butch Cassidy, etc.)