a middle grade novel by G. Neri
illustrated by Jesse Joshua Watson
For ages 10 & up
from Candlewick Press - ISBN: 9780763649227
From the 2011 Coretta Scott King Author Award winner comes a street-smart tale about a displaced teen who learns to defend what’s right— the Cowboy Way.
“Once again, G. Neri has done what he does best: taken a real-life scenario and turned it into compelling fiction. Cole's authentic voice will resonate with readers—it grabbed me right from the start and wouldn’t let me go. An outstanding book!” - Coe Booth, author of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize Winner Tyrell
“The unique subject matter alone makes this a book worth picking up. Cole’s heartwarming, heartrending voice, his struggle, and his triumph, make this a book worth reading to the end.” - Sundee T. Frazier, author of the Coretta Scott King / John Steptoe New Talent Award Winner Brendan Buckley's Universe and Everything in It
“Ghetto Cowboy is an exceptional and deeply moving story about a father and son finding their way to each other and a community daring to fight for what they believe in. G. Neri has created a story that ropes us in and saddles us up for a heartwarming ride.” - Hope Anita Smith, author of the Coretta Scott King Honor Winner Keeping the Night Watch
Suddenly, something big and
white bumps up against the car and I jump. I think I must be dreamin’ ’cause I just saw a horse run by.
When Cole’s mom dumps him in mean streets of Philly to live with the dad he’s never met, the last thing Cole expects to see is a horse—let alone a stable full of them. He may not know much about cowboys, but what he knows for sure is that cowboys ain't black and they don’t live in the inner city! But on Chester Avenue, horses are a way of life, and soon Cole’s days of goofing off and skipping school in Detroit have been replaced by shoveling muck and trying not to get stomped on.
Crazy as it may seem, the lifestyle grows on Cole, and he starts to think that maybe life as a ghetto cowboy isn’t so bad. But when the City threatens to shut down the stables—and take away the horse that Cole has come to think of as his own—he knows that he has to fight back.
Inspired by the real-life inner-city horsemen of Philadelphia and Brooklyn, Ghetto Cowboy is an timeless urban western about learning to stand up for what’s right—the Cowboy Way.
Reviews "Maybe part of the reason I like Greg Neri so much is that he’s not afraid to be as “urban” as “urban” can be. He writes in dialect, sets his stories in cities, talk about gangs and other contemporary issues, and produces stories that no one else is telling. That no one else is even attempting to tell. Because if there’s one thing Neri does well it’s tell a tale that needs to be told. Boys and their attachment horses haven’t garnered this much attention since the good old days of The Black Stallion. There’s an honesty to Neri’s writing that kids are going to respond to. They’ll discover a book that speaks to them. Inspiration comes from funny places sometimes. Wherever it comes from, though, it’s worth it in the end. Definitely recommended for everyone." - Elizabeth Bird, School Library Journal
“A heartwarming story about inner-city kids who bond with a band of forgotten race horses. Jesse Joshua Watson’s realistic pencil and graphite wash illustrations combine with Neri's gritty street language to make a powerful story. The rhythm of the writing, the smells and sounds of the neighborhood, the developing relationship between a boy and his estranged father add up to an appealing novel, especially for an under-written-for segment of young male readers." -Christian Science Monitor
"The city cowboys of Philadelphia and elsewhere are a fascinating and little-documented topic, and this is an eye-opening glimpse into that world; readers will particularly appreciate the close male bonding of the group, with its multigenerational relationships and friendly racing rivalries. The book a likely sell to reluctant readers and possibility for older readalouds-- It’s got broad application and considerable appeal.” – Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
Richie's Picks: “GHETTO COWBOY is the coming of age story of [a boy called] Coltrane and the fiery old racehorse he names Boo. It is a great story of community building and of the therapeutic effect of animals and of the history of black cowboys.” - Richie Partington, RichiesPick
“This book was an excellent read. The story is extremely well written, with strong characters, and the plot has a great pace. The illustrations by Jesse Joshua Watson are great; they give the book a feel; they help set you in the place of the story. This book is well worth reading both for youth and with them. Both Neri and Watson have crafted a first-rate read.” – Entertainment Today
"Based on the real-life, inner city black horsemen of Philadelphia and New York City, Neri’s story is original in theme and inspirational in tone and content." - Booklist
“It’s a fascinating glimpse of a culture most readers will not have heard of…Watson’s illustrations in pencil, ink and acrylic add a satisfying visual dimension.” -Kirkus Reviews
"This well-written book is based on a true story of urban cowboys in Philadelphia and New York. Cole’s spot-on emotional insight is conveyed through believable dialogue and the well-paced plot offers information about a little-known aspect of African-American history as well as a portrait of contemporary urban stable life. Watson’s illustrations punctuate the intriguing aspects of the story and make the novel more appealing." - School Library Journal
“[Ghetto Cowboy] is so good! And yes, that was me you heard cheering and crying at the end. If you are looking for an inspirational book for young readers (and yourselves!) you can add this book to your list. I can’t recommend this book highly enough!” - Rhapsody in Books
“One of the things I love about Neri, he knows how to tell a good story. Ghetto Cowboy moves at a great pace and everything fits together very well. I loved Watson's illustrations, they added a nice dimension to the story.” – Happy Nappy Bookseller
“Neri’s story is… a fascinating and unique tale with a diverse cast of characters and a real sense of community. This is a great book for a reluctant reader or a horselover like myself. It’s also a perfect book for reading aloud. Neri manages to address very serious issues, keeping kids off the street and fighting for what is right, while remaining entertaining. This book was a pleasure to read. As an added bonus the black and white illustrations are lovely.” - The Rogue Librarian
“A funny, sad, tragic, wry, and very real story. One of the BEST surprises of the book for me were the illustrations by Jesse Joshua Watson, [they] really make the imagination sing.” - Finding Wonderland
“This compelling tale of latter-day cowboy justice champions a world where your friends always have your back, especially when the chips are down.” – Indigo
Harper's place is full of horse stuff: a couple a old saddles, blankets, brushes, work boots, horse things like you see on TV. Instead of furniture, there’s even them square things of hay to sit on. This ain’t no house, it’s a barn. To top it off, there a big ol’ hole from floor to ceiling knocked into the side of the living room, leading into the place next door, like he just wanted to expand his crib and took over the abandoned one next to his.
I peek inside the hole, but it’s dark ‘cause all the windows is boarded up. But man, it really smells like animal in there. Suddenly, something big moves in the dark and I jump back. “That’s Lightning,” says Harper.
My eyes adjust to a pair of dark eyes staring back at me. It’s a horse. He got a horse in the house. No wonder Mama left him.
Harper must see my eyes buggin’ out, ‘cause he smirks, “Welcome to Philly, boy.”
Though this story is fiction, it’s inspired by the real life urban black horsemen of North Philadelphia and the Brooklyn-Queens area. The picture here is from the LIFE magazine article that made me sit up and take notice, and led me to look deeper into the unique pocket of American life.
The Brooklyn guys run the Federation of Black Cowboys, while the folks on Fletcher Street in Philly continue their battles against the City. Both use horses to keep young men off the streets. Both fight to maintain a tradition that has gone on for generations. But they’re doing it their way. More power to ‘em.