Kid's Stuff -- Books About Cowgirls & Cowboys
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Giddyap...!! Hyahh!! We haven't delved that deeply into the cow-kid genre, but there are definitely a lot of books out there on the theme... Got any favorites? We'd love to check 'em out.

"Sing, Sophie!"
Written by Gayle Anne Dodds
Illustrated by Rosanne Litzinger
(Candlewick, 1999)

Yee-haww...!!! Though sadly out of print, this cowgirl comedy is worth tracking down, as it has a lively text and provides plenty of opportunity for parents and caregivers to sing as badly as they want. Little Sophie Adams has a song inside her that's just got to come out -- too bad no one in her family wants to hear it! They keep shoo-ing her from place to place, telling her to stop her "caterwauling" and give them some peace and quiet. She dutifully moves along, muttering folksy oaths ("Oh, fiddle-faddle!") and coming up with ever-more silly verses. Good story, with nice, fun artwork... And, of course, Sophie is eventually vindicated: her family eventually comes around and find they really can't live without her songs after all, then Sophie gets to yodel all she wants. Cute. It's nice, too, that although this is a "country" book, the author avoids hillbilly stereotypes and always uses proper grammar. (Thank you, Ms. Dodds!) (A)

"Cowboy Baby"
Written by Sue Heap
Illustrated by Sue Heap
(Candlewick, 1998)

This one was a real crowd-pleaser, a simple, western-themed story of a litlle cowpoke toddler who has to round up his favorite toys before hitting the hay for the night. Colorful, imaginative artwork places us out in the desert as Cowboy Baby finds his saddle pals, Denver Dog, Hank The Horse and Texas Ted(dy). It's cute but not completely cloying, and most importantly, your kid will probably really enjoy it. Mine did. Yippee-ay-ai!! (Followed by Cowboy Kid, which was still illustrated by Sue Heap, but written by Max Eilenberg.) (B+)

"Every Cowgirl Needs a Horse"
Written by Rebecca Janni
Illustrated by Lynne Avril
(Candlewick, 1999)


"Buckamoo Girls"
Written by Ellen A. Kelley
Illustrated by Tom Curry
(Harry N. Abrams, 2006)

Two cows dream of being cowgirls,ropin' and ridin' and singing under the stars. The concept is funny, the tone is playful, but I wasn't wowed by the execution... The rhyming text is pretty clunky, and the artwork wasn't to my taste. Kinda weird, too, seeing two cows riding on horseback, chasing down steers at a rodeo -- very Planet Of The Apes-y... At least they didn't serve beef stew at the chuck wagon! Anyway, this one didn't do much for me, although we did enjoy the bovine parody version of the song "Buffalo Girls" at the end of the book. (C-)

"Giddy Up, Cowgirl"
Written by Jarrett J. Krosoczka
Illustrated by Jarrett J. Krosoczka
(Viking, 2006)

A rambunctious but well-meaning girl tags along with her mom, trying to help out, but causing chaos at every turn. She loses the grocery list and spills the eggs, but Mom is kind and forebaring. This was okay -- we were drawn to it because the heroine was billed as a cowgirl, but she isn't, really -- she's just a modern suburban kid who likes to dress up in Western clothes and who goes by the name of "Cowgirl." The real story is about klutziness and overexcitability. The tone is kind, the kid seems real, but the text isn't terribly deep or engaging. (B-)

"Cowboy Small"
Written by Lois Lenski
Illustrated by Lois Lenski
(Random House, 1949)

Old-fashioned, yet oddly alluring, Lois Lenski's books featuring a little guy named Small have an enduring charm for modern readers. This volume features Small out on the range, ropin' and ridin' with a bunch of cowpokes, with his trusty horse Cactus all saddled up and ready to go. The book gives a brief but fairly accurate view of life on a ranch -- indeed, the page where Small ties and brands a calf may be a little shocking to city kids today (we used to skip it every time we read this to our little cowgirl...) Nice for kids who like horses and cowboys -- also includes a diagram explaining the all horse tack, and a short glossary of cowboy lingo. (B)

"Cindy Ellen: A Wild Western Cinderella"
Written by Susan Lowell
Illustrated by Jane Manning
(Harper Collins/Joanna Cotler Books, 2000)

A gutsy, goofy, wild and wooly cowgirly adaptation of the old Cinderella story. It's hard not to read this here book with broad Wild West accent, since the text is peppered with the gol'durndest passel a' earthy, down-home slang that yuh'll ever hear hear this side of a rattlesnake's nest. Yee-haw, git along and like that. It's pretty fun: instead of waltzing at a fancy ball in a big palace, Cindy wins Joe Prince's heart by ropin' dogies and bustin' broncs at a big rodeo what was thrown by his paw, a big local cattle baron. Cindy and Joe also cut a rug at the big square dance and ride off into the sunset at the end of the book. I'm not wild about having her fairy godmother shoot a magic six-gun (not into guns) and many readers may be baffled by the arcane rodeo terminology Lowell digs up at the start of the book... But this is a book even city slickers can get into: if you're into the Cinderella saga, and perhaps in need of a fresh take on the same old story, this little dooley oughta do the trick. Recommended! (B+)

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