Book Review

Book Review : Ghetto Cowboy by G Neri

When Cole’s mom dumps him in the mean streets of Philadelphia 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 aren’t black, and they don’t live in the inner city. But in his dad’s ’hood, horses are a way of life, and soon Cole’s days of skipping school and getting in trouble in Detroit have been replaced by shoveling muck and trying not to get stomped on.

At first, all Cole can think about is how to ditch these ghetto cowboys and get home. But when the City threatens to shut down the stables— and take away the horse Cole has come to think of as his own— he knows that it’s time to step up and fight back.

Inspired by the little-known urban riders of Philly and Brooklyn, this compelling tale of latter-day cowboy justice champions a world where your friends always have your back, especially when the chips are down.

I have never made any secret of the fact that I love cowboys. I mainly put this down to having grown up with a grandmother who loved anything to do with Westerns, particularly John Wayne. She used to go to the library each week to get books for herself and my grandad, she always brought back westerns whether that was what he wanted to read or not! When I read about this book I was really interested by it, I’d never heard of these urban cowboys and I thought this would be an excellent introduction to them.

The book starts with Cole’s mother finally realising that she can’t cope with his bad behaviour any longer and taking him to Philadelphia to live with the father he’s never known. Cole doesn’t know how to react to his father, and Harper, his father, doesn’t seem too interested in him. Very quickly though Cole starts to learn about his father’s world, he’s an urban cowboy and responsible for keeping kids in the area out of trouble, slowly but surely they start to understand each other and build a relationship.

I found that very quickly I was grabbed by the plot. It is relatively simple, this book is aimed at the 10-12 market, but I’m confidant that older readers will enjoy it just as much. Throughout the book there are illustrations by Jesse Joshua Watson. I liked these a lot, they really brought the story to life. I read the book on an eReader and was really pleased to see that they worked well on here too.

Cole is a great character, whilst he starts off as a fairly naughty kid very quickly I found myself taking to him and enjoying his journey within the book. Harper’s world is a fascinating one, I loved reading about the stables set up that they had, and the work that the cowboys did in the area, but most of all I loved reading about the cowboys themselves and seeing their interactions.

I really enjoyed this book. I found it a really interesting read, and one where I was really rooting for the characters. I feel like I’ve learnt a little about urban cowboys, but really it has just whet my appetite to find out more. I’m going to be looking out for more books about them in the near future.

Ghetto Cowboy is published in hardback by Candlewick Press in the UK priced £9.88. Whilst I was provided with a review copy of the book via all of the opinions expressed are my own.

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