Ghetto Cowboy by G. Neri

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Ill. by Jesse Joshua Watson. Candlewick Press, 2013. ISBN 9780763664534.
(Age: 10+) Recommended. When Cole's mother decides that she can no longer deal with him, she leaves him in the mean streets of Philadelphia with the father that he has never met. To his horror, there is a horse in the house, and a stable full of horses nearby. He never dreamt that there were black cowboys. Soon he is mucking out the stables rather than skipping school and getting into trouble. When the City decides that the stables should be shut down, Cole knows that it is time to fight back and save his father's way of life.
This clever and moving story comes from the 2011 Coretta Scott King Author Award Honor winner, whose ability to write a compassionate look at a young boy and his father getting to know each other for the first time is inspirational. It has been inspired by the real life urban black horsemen of North Philadelphia and the Brooklyn-Queens area, and a picture from Life magazine and information at the back of the book give added information.
Although the background is intriguing, it is the portrayal of father and son getting together, that is at the heart of the story. Cole is on the verge of getting into bad company and truanting from school when his mother decides she can't cope with him anymore. Cole's father has kept the stables going believing that looking after horses will keep the local kids away from danger but has no idea about how to act like a father. Together they get to know each other and their fight against the closure of the stables brings them together.
The setting and the real life background of the ghetto cowboys makes this an exceptionally interesting book to read and I really enjoyed Cole's journey as he began to know his father. It would make a great read aloud and provides a fascinating alternative for those who enjoy books about horses.
Pat Pledger