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Fearless Mary: 01/05/19

Fearless Mary

Fearless Mary by Tami Charles and Claire Almon is a picture book biography of Mary Fields, a former slave who in her sixties, began a career mail carrier on the star route.

The book is set in Cascade, Montana in 1895.

The picture book puts the emphasis on the skills needed for the job: handling horses, navigating dangerous trails, avoiding robberies, and protecting the cargo. The second page briefly mentions the mail aspect of the job: "The best way to deliver the mail there is by stagecoach."

Mostly though the book is about her fight to test for the job in a town that was decidedly anti-Black. Her skills with horses, with a gun, and her toughness are put front and center.

Image shows the stagecoach and horses racing across and down a hill with Mary in the driver's seat

This book is big on show, not tell, with Almon's energetic illustrations showing Mary hitching the horses to the stagecoach and then driving them through the course up and down the steep hill. What the text doesn't say directly (though it does hint at it) is that she was the fastest applicant to get the horses hitched.

The second third of the book follows one particularly dangerous run and how Mary handled the situation. It's here under pressure, in danger, with her horses frightened, and wolves on the prowl that her true skills are shown.

The book ends with a brief summary of her career and what how being a mail carrier has evolved since then. Each of the carriers in the illustration are women: the pilot, the cyclist, the motorcyclist, and the van driver. On the final page there is a woman driving an eighteen wheeler for the U.S. post office.

Finally there's an authors note explaining the process of researching Mary Fields as well as some liberties taken in writing the book. Namely, the wolf scene was from a job prior to her working as a mail carrier. But it's still possible to imagine those weren't the only wolves she might have encountered.

All in all, a fun and educational book.

Five stars

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