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February 15, 2018 BOOKLIST
Find more Classroom Connections
Howdy, pardners. We decided to rustle up some right dandy picture books on cowboys—and cowgirls. Some are brand spankin’ new; others are older than the hills. Some are yarns, good for sharing ’round the campfire; some may actually have a bit of truth to them, and others are about some mighty fine folks. They’re especially good for little critters who just can’t get enough about life on the lonesome prairie. These all-fired rootin’-tootin’ picture books are sure to get buckaroos reading—and that’s what it’s all about!
For more confident readers who’ve had their appetite sufficiently whetted, the final nonfiction section details the true grit of the cowboy lifestyle and covers a few things that readers might find surprising—not the least of which is that more than a quarter of cowboys were black or Mexican, and there were quite a few women sharpshooters. Saddle up and get ready to dig into titles that explore the surprisingly diverse, if deadly, history of the Wild West!
Cowboy Picture Books
Buster Goes to Cowboy Camp. By Denise Fleming. Illus. by the author. 2008. Holt, $8.95 (9780805078923). PreS–Gr. 3.
From its opening blue-bandanna endpapers to its cowpoke glossary, this sweet, simple story is steeped in the stuff of the Wild West. Buster the dog goes to Sagebrush Kennels Cowboy Camp and loves his rollicking, temporary home on the range. Delightful paper-pulp illustrations highlight the dude-ranch features.
Cowboy & Octopus. By Jon Scieszka. Illus. by Lane Smith. 2007. Viking, $16.99 (9780670910588). PreS–Gr. 2.
Cowboy and Octopus shake hands and shake hands and shake hands, eat beans, and become true friends, despite wildly disparate interests. Clever mixed-media collages show cutouts of Cowboy and Octopus superimposed on whimsical illustrations incorporating period drawings and vintage photos.
Cowboy Boyd and Mighty Calliope. By Lisa Moser. Illus. by Sebastiaan Van Doninck. 2013. Random, o.p. PreS–Gr. 2.
A young cowboy and his trusty rhino, Calliope, the shortest, dustiest, and lumpiest mount ever seen, save the day when a storm scatters the herd. Bold, stylized illustrations complement the goofy text, adding humor when enthusiastic Calliope heedlessly smashes through the bunkhouse or scatters the chickens.
Cowboy Christmas. By Rob Sanders. Illus. by John Manders. 2012. Random/Golden, o.p. PreS–Gr. 1.
A gang of dusty cowpokes out on the prairie fear that Santy Clause will never find them. Never fear—Santy shows up with a tree, feast, and presents, just in time for caroling aplenty. Cutesy cows, push broom mustaches, and ten-gallon hats help this double-threat book cover holiday-season and home-on-the-range needs.
Cowboy Slim. By Julie Danneberg. Illus. by Margot Apple. 2006. Charlesbridge, o.p. PreS–Gr. 2.
A tenderfoot longs to be “a real cowboy,” but is irresistibly drawn to writing poetry. Seasoned cowboys keep rescuing him from horrific disasters, but when the herd stampedes, his words save the day. Detailed pencil-and-watercolor drawings set off the distinctive cast of characters and unusually expressive cows.
Cowpoke Clyde and Dirty Dawg. By Lori Mortensen. Illus. by Michael Allen Austin. 2013. Clarion, $16.99 (9780547239934). PreS–Gr. 2.
Neatnik Cowpoke Clyde takes on mud-caked Dawg. Feathers fly, fleas jump, hogs skitter, pails topple, and mules kick as Clyde tries to get Dawg into the washtub. Vibrant acrylic-and-pencil illustrations exaggerate the tall-tale humor.
Cowpoke Clyde Rides the Range. By Lori Mortensen. Illus. by Michael Allen Austin. 2016. Clarion, $16.99 (9780544370302). PreS–Gr. 2.
Cowpoke Clyde orders a mail-order bicycle, hoping it’ll be better than a bucking, biting horse. But whoa, Nelly! Riding isn’t so easy, especially around horny toads, porcupines, and a herd of bighorn sheep. The witty illustrations provide graphic-novel-like perspectives as Clyde gets up his gumption and never looks back.
The Halloween Kid. By Rhode Montijo. Illus. by the author. 2010. Simon & Schuster, $12.99 (9781416935759). PreS–Gr. 2.
The Halloween Kid (“Yee-Ha-lloween!”) saves the night as he foils TP-crazed mummies, pumpkin-sucking vampires, and straying werewolves. Orange, yellow, and black digitally enhanced art evokes a 1950s feel. Cowboy lingo adds fun in its celebration of “good ol’-fashioned dressin’ up and gettin’ some sweet eats.”
Let’s Sing a Lullaby with the Brave Cowboy. By Jan Thomas. Illus. by the author. 2012. Simon & Schuster/Beach Lane, $12.99 (9781442442764). PreS–Gr. 2.
A rather high-strung cowboy tries to strum a pair of little dogies to sleep. He interrupts his somniferous lyrics with regular “Eeeeeks!” as he mistakes shadows for lurking menaces. Loud-color cartoon illustrations regularly range outside of their outlines, adding to the general manic hilarity in this great read-aloud.
Ned’s New Friend. By David Ezra Stein. Illus. by the author. 2007. Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman, o.p. PreS–Gr. 2.
While strolling down Main Street, Cowboy Ned spots the distractingly lovely Miss Clementine. Andy, his horse, worries: will Ned run off and leave him behind? Not a chance. Ink-and-watercolor artwork with thick, roughly brushed black lines accentuate the characters’ expressions and evoke a dusty, Wild West setting.
Pirates vs. Cowboys. By Aaron Reynolds. Illus. by David Barneda. 2013. Knopf, $16.99 (9780375858741). PreS–Gr. 2.
A pirate crew needs a new place to bury their treasure. They lumber inland to a town run by a passel of outlaw cowboys. “Me hearties” face off against “rootin’-tootin’ gunslingers” (everyone ends up happy). Dusty earth-toned acrylic illustrations do justice to the beady-eyed characters and exaggerated situations.
Real Cowboys. By Kate Hoefler. Illus. by Jonathan Bean. 2016. HMH, $16.99 (9780544148925). K–Gr. 3.
This lovely, lyrical picture book declares that individuals, even cowboys, need to be gentle and caring, even when dealing with inclement weather, lost strays, or stampedes. Perhaps not for those wanting to explore the world of real cowboys, but rather the personality traits that come in handy when the going gets tough.
Ridin’ Dinos with Buck Bronco. By George McClements. Illus. by the author. 2007. HMH, o.p. Gr. 1–3.
Buck Bronco gives advice to greenhorns about choosing two or four-legged dino-steeds, vegetarians or steak-chompin’ carnivores. The final task is getting the romping steeds to find suitable bunks and bed down for the night. Bright torn-paper cartoon illustrations merge with computer images of real dinosaur teeth.
Sixteen Cows. By Lisa Wheeler. Illus. by Kurt Cyrus. 2002. HMH, $16 (9780152055929). PreS–Gr. 2.
This bouncy rhyming romance tells of Cowboy Gene and Cowgirl Sue, who graze cows on adjacent ranches—until a fence comes down and the herds blend together. What to do? Get hitched! Brightly colored paintings capture the farce from rakish angles, bringing onlookers up close to the cowbell-clanging action.
We Found a Hat. By Jon Klassen. Illus. by the author. 2016. Candlewick, $17.99 (9780763656003). K–Gr. 2.
Technically, this book stars two turtles, but the plot totally depends on a chance encounter with a white cowboy hat. They both try it on and are immediately enraptured—and covetous. Spare text, expressive glances, and a dusty pink and brown color palette make this the perfect wrap-up for Klassen’s hat series.
Alice from Dallas. By Marilyn Sadler. Illus. by Ard Hoyt. 2014. Abrams, $16.95 (9781419707902). K–Gr. 2.
There’s no better cowgirl in all of Dallas (Pennsylvania) than cowboy hat–wearing Alice. But then Lexis, who’s really from Texas, shows up! The rivals have showdowns before realizing there’s room in town for two cowgirls. Ink-and-watercolor illustrations gleefully capture the enthusiasm for all things western.
Cactus Annie. By Melanie Williamson. Illus. by the author. 2012. IPG/Hodder, o.p. PreS–Gr. 1.
Cactus Annie keeps messing up at cowgirl school. She falls off Clover, her cow, and forgets to take the spikes out of her cactus pie. When rustlers steal the herd, only ostracized Annie hears their desperate moos and leads the rescue effort, becoming the “best cowgirl in town.” Bright digital art helps keep things light.
A Cowboy Named Ernestine. By Nicole Rubel. Illus. by the author. 2001. Dial, o.p. PreS–Gr. 3.
Mail-order bride Ernestine realizes her intended is a slob. Disguised as a man, she becomes a cowboy and soon finds true love and her happy-ever-after home on the range. Whimsical ink-and-marker illustrations offer detailed landscapes, expressive characters, and a lurking armadillo hidden on every page.
A Cowgirl and Her Horse. By Jean Ekman Adams. Illus. by the author. 2011. Rio Chico, $15.95 (9781933855714). PreS–Gr. 2.
In an effort to properly care for her horse, a hardworking cowgirl takes her hungry steed straight into the supermarket, and the ensuing chaos produces goofy hilarity. Ink drawings are brightened with pleasing washes of color. Western landscapes provide distinctive backdrops for this droll, imaginative book.
Cowgirl Rosie and Her Five Baby Bison. By Stephen Gulbis. Illus. by the author. 2001. Little, Brown, o.p. PreS–Gr. 2.
Cowgirl Rosie takes her five baby bison into town, and one by one, they mysteriously disappear, so she saddles up to find the varmint who took off with her darlin’s. Great artwork aptly highlights the charms of the characters, the five miniature bison, and a Technicolor desert setting. (The bison are saved, of course.)
Every Cowgirl Needs a Horse. By Rebecca Janni. Illus. by Lynne Avril. 2010. Dutton, $16.99 (9780525421641). K–Gr. 2.
Nellie Sue wants a horse for her birthday, but ends up with a bike. She’s disappointed, but trades her cowboy hat for a helmet and discovers that her new “horse” is perfect for riding the trails. Animated illustrations, filled with amusing details, create a cowgirl world touched with plenty of pink.
Hannah Mae O’Hannigan’s Wild West Show. By Lisa Campbell Ernst. Illus. by the author. 2003. Simon & Schuster, o.p. Gr. 1–2.
Hannah Mae is born to staid, city-slicker parents, but she still studies Cowpoke Monthly and practices herding hamsters (having no convenient cows). Goofy cowboy lingo, pretty Popsicle colors, and expressive saucer-eyed expressions on animals and real folk will help round up an audience. Great for reading aloud.
I Want to Be a Cowgirl. By Jeanne Willis. Illus. by Tony Ross. 2002. Holt, o.p. PreS–Gr. 2.
A young city girl in a frou-frou Victorian dress, explains why she has decided to become a cowgirl. Rhyming text begs to be sung in western drawl, and illustrations add witty details. Kids will cheer as our heroine rides off into the sunset, followed closely by Dad.
Lexie the Word Wrangler. By Rebecca Van Slyke. Illus. by Jessie Hartland. 2017. Penguin/Nancy Paulsen, $17.99 (9780399169571). K–Gr. 3.
Lexie easily handles horses, lariats, and cattle, but she especially excels as a word wrangler who herds words into stories—until some varmint word rustler shows up and creates hilarious havoc. Expressive, childlike gouache paintings illustrate the action with considerable wit. Perfect wordplay for reading out loud.
Little Britches and the Rattlers. By Eric A. Kimmel. Illus. by Vincent Nguyen. 2008. Marshall Cavendish, o.p. K–Gr. 2.
Little Britches runs into rattlesnakes that threaten to eat her right up. She tries bargaining, offering her new hat, chaps, and boots, until finally she’s down to her long johns. Snake bickering ensues, resulting in emptied-out clothes. Counting concepts, droll lingo, and glib silliness are complemented by wry artwork.
Waynetta and the Cornstalk: A Texas Fairy Tale. By Helen Ketteman. Illus. by Diane Greenseid. 2007. Albert Whitman, $16.95 (9780807586877). PreS–Gr. 3.
This funny, feminist fractured fairy tale involves a magic cornstalk, a huge spread in the sky, a mean ol’ rancher, a longhorn that poops gold cowpats, and eventual treasure for poor Ma. Action-packed, neon-colored illustrations match the tall-tale fun that tells of a bad grown-up outwitted by a very small, very smart heroine.
Annie Oakley: The Woman Who Never Missed a Shot. By Katherine Rose. Illus. by Richard Madison. 2014. Cavendish Square, $28.50 (9781627122863). Gr. 2–4.
The facts of Annie Oakley’s life—her hardscrabble childhood, amazing marksmanship, wrangling with her eventual husband, and friendship with Sitting Bull—are presented accurately and appealingly. Random facts and unattributed quotes make this more appropriate for the folklore collection.
Bill Pickett: Rodeo-Ridin’ Cowboy. By Andrea D. Pinkney. Illus. by Brian Pinkney. 1996. HMH, $16 (9780780798250). PreS–Gr. 3.
Emancipated slave Bill Pickett was a long-time favorite on the rodeo circuit due to his skillful riding. His story is told with verve and relish—and a bit of cowboy twang. Pictures with scratchboard lines and colors on deep black surfaces swirl with excitement. Overviews of rodeos and black cowboys round out this tribute.
Black Cowboy, Wild Horses: A True Story. By Julius Lester. Illus. by Jerry Pinkney. 1998. Dial, $16.99 (9780153143793). K–Gr. 4.
One of every three cowboys who tamed the Wild West was Mexican or black. Bob Lemmon, a former slave with uncanny tracking abilities, found fame through locating and taming wild horses. Earth-colored gouache-and-watercolor paintings capture the energy as broncos gallop across sweeping double-page spreads.
Cowboys. By David L. Harrison. Illus. by Dan Burr. 2012. Boyds Mills/Wordsong, o.p. Gr. 3–5.
Twenty-two free-verse poems and large digital paintings come together to depict the multifaceted world of cowboys. Photo-realistic paintings mix close-ups with panoramic scenes, and the voices represent not just cowboys but also women, freed slaves, and grizzled old cowpokes, creating intimacy and an insider feel.
Cowboy with a Camera, Erwin E. Smith: Cowboy Photographer. By Don Worcester. 1999. Amon Carter Museum, $18.95 (9780883600917). Gr. 4–6.
Smith’s intriguing turn-of-the-century photos record the routines of cowboy life and include several African American and Hispanic subjects. The authentic period photos are meticulously reproduced. Everyday chores, the excitement of rodeos, and the ambience of the sweeping dusty plains are a pleasure to behold.
Holding the Reins: A Ride through Cowgirl Life. By Marc Talbert. 2003. Harper, o.p. Gr. 3–6.
Candid photographs and straightforward text follow present-day adolescent cowgirls through a calendar year, covering not only difficult, demanding tasks but also fun, rewarding activities. This interesting, insightful book does not overly romanticize these girls and opens a window into the unique reality of ranch life.
Home on the Range: John A. Lomax and His Cowboy Songs. By Deborah Hopkinson. Illus. by S. D. Schindler. 2009. Putnam, $16.99 (9780399239960). Gr. 1–3.
This picture-book biography of John Avery Lomax (1867–1948) covers his love of cowboy songs and his career spent “song hunting”: collecting and recording America’s folk songs, including “Home on the Range.” Appealing line-and-wash illustrations depict believably quirky individuals and detailed western landscapes.
How to Get Rich on a Texas Cattle Drive: In Which I Tell the Honest Truth about Rampaging Rustlers, Stampeding Steers, and Other Fateful Hazards on the Wild Chisholm Trail. By Tod Olson. Illus. by Scott Allred. 2010. National Geographic, $18.95 (9781426305245). Gr. 4–8.
Sage advice for cowboys on getting rich? Work for Buffalo Bill and write a best-seller. This true-to-life account of a cattle drive, and the ongoing ledger tracking a cowboy’s modest finances, should keep little wranglers’ expectations in check. They will enjoy the period photos, artwork, and original drawings though.
Iris Wall, Cracker Cowgirl. By Carol Matthews Rey. Illus. by Eldon Lux. 2012. Pelican, $16.99 (9781455615254). Gr. 2–4.
Florida is our second-largest cattle-producing state, and this picture-book biography introduces an 80-year-old “cow hunter” who still catches and herds wild scrubland cows. Iris also shares her life history with ranch visitors and tells them about this threatened way of life. Her enthusiasm and joy shine through.
The Original Cowgirl: The Wild Adventures of Lucille Mulhall. By Heather Lang. Illus. by Suzanne Beaky. 2015. Albert Whitman, $16.99 (9780807529317). K–Gr. 3.
This gender-defying, wrangling, riding, and shooting star had her own traveling Wild West show and once performed before Vice President Teddy Roosevelt. She also set the world record for steer roping. Folk art is juxtaposed against humorous drawings, perking up this testimonial to pursuing dreams.
What If You Met a Cowboy? By Jan Adkins. Illus. by the author. 2014. Roaring Brook, $17.99 (9781596431492). Gr. 3–5.
This warts-and-all look at real cowboys, “smelly drifters in dead-end jobs,” strips away any romantic notions. Forget sharpshooting heroes; the most influential men on cattle drives were the beanwallopers in their chuck wagons. Earthy, realistic illustrations break up the text, adding color and some unnerving details.
Kathleen McBroom recently retired from a 40-year career that spanned public, academic, and school library assignments. She currently works as a consultant.
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