The Boy Who Became Buffalo Bill: Growing Up Billy Cody in Bleeding Kansas
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The greatest entertainer of his era, Buffalo Bill was the founder and star of the legendary show that featured cowboys, Indians, trick riding, and sharpshooters.
But long before stardom, Buffalo Bill—born Billy Cody—had to grow up fast. While homesteading in Kansas just before the Civil War, his family was caught up in the conflict with neighboring Missouri over whether Kansas would enter the Union as a free or slave state.
To support his family after a pro-slaver killed his father, Billy—then eleven—herded cattle, worked on wagon trains, and rode the Pony Express. As the violence in Bleeding Kansas escalated, he joined the infamous Jayhawkers, seeking revenge on Missourians, and then became a soldier, scout, and spy in the Civil War—all by age seventeen.
Award-winning author Andrea Warren brings to life the compelling childhood of an adventurous, determined boy who transformed himself into a true American icon.
From School Library Journal
Gr 5–8—This biography of Buffalo Bill Cody covers the showman, scout, and hunter's life from birth to his fame as an entertainer. When Cody was seven, he and his family moved from Iowa to Kansas. He and his siblings were introduced to slavery, to which the family was opposed. By the time Cody was 12, he knew how to camp, lasso and ride wild horses, drive teams of oxen, and how to handle firearms. He also developed a deep appreciation for the clothing, music, dances, games, and martial skills of the Native American tribes. Cody saw the immense value of their sign language. From friends and relatives, he also learned the impact of a dramatic entrance or gesture. Pre-Civil War violence engulfed the Cody family, and Warren keeps readers engrossed as she describes the deadly mayhem that the newspapers labeled "Bloody Kansas." When Cody enlisted in the Union Army a week before his 18th birthday, his talents made him perfect for his role as a scout and spy. He would go on to found the traveling extravaganza Buffalo Bill's Wild West and Congress of Rough Riders of the World. Copious illustrations and photographs and thorough back matter further enhance this exciting biography. VERDICT This unputdownable adventure reveals the human side of Buffalo Bill. A solid addition to biography collections.—Sharon M. Lawler, formerly of Randolph Elementary, Randolph AFB, TX
“Gripping and intelligent read.” —Publishers Weekly
“Providing contextualizing information along the way, Warren chronicles all these colorful adventures in lively prose...Well-researched, engagingly written.” —Kirkus Reviews
“When Warren discusses topics such as the adult Cody’s shooting buffalo and using Indians in his Wild West show, she places them within the context of his times, making the portrayal of Cody overwhelmingly positive. A vivid starting point for a study of ‘Bleeding Kansas.’” —Booklist
About the Author
Andrea Warren combines her love of history and storytelling with her passion for children and education in her award-winning nonfiction books for young readers. Her many honors include the Boston Globe–Horn Book Award for Nonfiction, the Robert F. Sibert Medal for most distinguished informational book for children, the Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children, and the William Allen White Award. Reviewers and readers have called her books “riveting,” “meticulously researched,” and a “topflight example of historical storytelling.”
Andrea Warren has lived in Kansas, the setting for much of this book, for many years, and she now makes her home in the Kansas City area. For more information about her books, please visit AndreaWarren.com.
Most helpful customer reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful.
I read this book as a 72 year old to learn info about Billy Cody and was so interested to learn all the history of Kanas and the boarder wars. How is it that I have lived so long and never known any of this??!!..I highly recommend this book to any who are interested in our history..especially mid western and western history. Cody was a part of it all!
0 of 0 people found the following review helpful.
Fascinating and compelling narrative nonfiction.
By Heidi Grange
Warren herself points out in the author's note at the end of the book that her focus here was not entirely on Buffalo Bill, but on Bleeding Kansas and the events surrounding Kansas's statehood. And seeing as William Cody spent part of his childhood as well as his teenage years in Kansas at that time, he made a great way to tell the story of what was going on in Kansas at that time. Using Cody's own words as well as those of other family members and witnesses, Warren does a great job of sharing the tensions and conflict that boiled over into bloodshed and terror after Congress gave Kansans the right to decide whether to be a free or slave state. After the death of his older brother, Cody and his family set off for Kansas looking for a place to prosper and forget. But none of them forsaw the conflict that would invade their lives. The invasion of Kansas by slaveholders from Missouri and elsewhere clashed with Cody's father's beliefs and when that became known Cody's father was stabbed. While Isaac Cody survived the stabbing, his stance on slavery forced him away from his family in order to protect them and his family struggled without him. Within three years, Isaac would be dead and Billy would be left at the age of 11 to be the man of the house. But his own restless, wandering nature made it a struggle to stay home.
Written in a compelling style, often times using direct quotes from Billy himself as well as his sister, Julia, and other witnesses, The Boy Who became Buffalo Bill, focuses on Billy's youth, the years leading up to Bleeding Kansas and the events surrounding Billy's life there. While the author does get into his adult life a bit at the end, the focus here is on his teenage years, his involvement in outlaw raids during the Civil War, and his service in the Union Army. It's clear that Warren is more trusting of Cody's own words than many others, and Cody was known to exaggerate and even make things up which makes it hard to know how much of his own version of his life was actually true. But regardless, Warren presents a compelling read, leaving it to the reader to accept or reject Cody's version of events.
0 of 0 people found the following review helpful.
Get to Know Buffalo Bill
By Mike D.
Nicely researched, quick and interesting read. Cody's exposure to the bloody Kansas pre-Civil War strife and engagement as a frontiersman make him the quintessential self-made American. His sympathy for and knowledge about the native Americans of the West gave his staged exhibitions a sheen of the anthropological story of the destroyed tribes. Great addition for any YA American History bookshelf.