A small town lives in terror of the Outlaw, but one day, he disappears—and a mysterious stranger rides into town …

In this spare and powerful story set in the Old West, people in a small town live in constant worry of another visit from the Outlaw. Then the Outlaw suddenly and mysteriously disappears. Time passes, and one day a stranger rides into town. He takes it upon himself to fix everything that is in disrepair — the clapboard schoolhouse, the train station platform. He even builds a horse trough. But when someone recognizes him as the Outlaw, the crowd turns on the stranger. It takes the courage of a small boy to change the course of events …

The subtle, beautiful mixed-media art with its nineteenth-century textural references perfectly complements this original story from debut author and illustrator Nancy Vo.

Correlates to the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts:

Retell stories, including key details, and demonstrate understanding of their central message or lesson.

Describe characters, settings, and major events in a story, using key details.

Distinguish their own point of view from that of the narrator or those of the characters.

Explain how specific aspects of a text's illustrations contribute to what is conveyed by the words in a story (e.g., create mood, emphasize aspects of a character or setting)


The most magical part of the book, illustrating Vo’s innate sense of story, is the separate tale of a child’s naughty behavior that is followed by connection and kindness. This narrative unfolds exclusively in the illustrations, going unmentioned by the text, revealing how the most wondrous acts can go unnoticed, unless you look closer.

- New York Times

Author–illustrator Nancy Vo uses text sparingly but effectively, employing illustrations to fill the blanks in this powerful story set in the Old West.

- International Literacy Association

The story is striking too, the lonely, mysterious stranger motif reminiscent of Shaun Tan's The Arrival. Vo's ending puts faith in a child's sense of justice and redemption.

- School Library Journal

Vo provides readers with a picture-book Western that upends many of the genre's gunslinging shootout- and revenge-narrative tropes. … The ink and largely grayscale watercolor illustrations, along with an intriguing newspaper transfer technique, pair well with the spare, contemplative text.

- Horn Book

It haunts one’s imagination long after reading. … The dramatic illustrations are a perfect complement to the minimalist text.

- Canadian Review of Materials

Scraps of mid-19th-century newsprint are incorporated into Nancy Vo’s artwork for “The Outlaw”, subtly adding elegance and atmosphere to a picture-book story of wickedness and redemption. … “So the Outlaw continued to make amends,” concludes this satisfying fable for 6- to 9-year-olds.

- Wall Street Journal