by G. Neri/Illustrated by Jesse Joshua Watson
First sentence: “We drivin’ into the sunset, the car burning up from the heat.”
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Living in Detroit, twelve-year-old Cole and his mom are scraping by. Sure, he doesn’t go to school that often, but he’s okay. Until the day he gets caught, his mom flips, and drives him to Philadelphia to live with a father Cole has never met.
Once he gets to Philly, angry about being abandoned (as he sees it), by his mom, he decides he will have nothing to do with his father, or the stables he runs in North Philly.
This is where you do a double take: horse stables, in the middle of the ghetto? Based on a true fact — there really are horses in inner-city Philadelphia — Ghetto Cowboy looks at how providing something for kids to do, something as simple as caring for an animal, can give that life a meaning. At the same time, it explores a blossoming relationship bewteen a boy and his father.
There are many good things about this book: that it’s a non-girly horse book; that it’s written in dialect, but not hard to read; that there are gorgeous illustrations. In many ways, it’s trite, yes: just how many stories of bad kid making good can we read? But, I love that there is something different — Cole’s connection not only with his father, but with his father’s livelihood as well — to make this one better than all the other inner-city bad kids books.
In other words: it’s worth picking up.