Friday, February 17, 2012

Cowboys Against the Man: Ghetto Cowboy

After a rocky start, I managed to fall completely into the story G. Neri spins in Ghetto Cowboy, a Middle Grade Fiction Cybils finalist.  Cole, a part-time seventh grader, falls into the world of Philadelphia urban horse fanatics when his mother dumps him on his absentee father at a moment's notice. This gives Neri the chance to explore this culture from the bottom up, since Cole is initially as disbelieving and cynical as the most curmudgeonly reader.
Actually, I enjoyed the sense of history the most -- as Neri explains in a final author's note, he based this story on real stables and events in Philadelphia, so the feel of the community's struggles to keep their horses, both because they love them and because they provide one of the few alternatives to drugs and failure for their kids.  The city authorities either ignore or actively undermine their efforts, withholding services capriciously and suddenly remembering long abandoned property rights.  Cole's story itself has a few giant leaps for me -- did his mom really have to plow down someone else's horse on her way out the door?  Was it necessary for Cole to immediately bond with a skittish horse? I suspect child-me wouldn't have blinked at either the melodrama of the love-at-first-sight between the city boy and Boo the wonder horse.  

Anyway, I recommend this book, but I can't help wishing I was reading it in the nonfiction finalist section instead.  I'll pass it on to the boys for their reaction.

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