Billy the Kid
In this young adult novel, Theodore Taylor creates a tale for boys about the Wild West, its law, and the notorious rebel, Billy the Kid. Throughout the book, the author liberally stretches the historical truth about this character, painting Billy as a charming victim of circumstance rather than the true cold-blooded killer he was. Certainly, as readers we expect to suspend our disbelief with some historical facts. However, Taylor goes a bit too far. In emphasizing Billy’s admiration for his father, the author highlights how “his papa” was “the best gunsmith in the whole world. He’d made guns for the president as well as for the king of England.” Since this is set in the late 19th century, it seems unlikely that Billy’s father could have made a gun for the last King of England, who died in 1837.
In the author’s note, Taylor admits to the lack of “resemblance” between his character and the legend. It might have been a better read if he had simply created a fictional name for his lead character rather than leaving young readers with the impression that this is the story of the infamous outlaw. (Ages 12+)