Sunday, January 15, 2012

Looking for Newbery - Ghetto Cowboy

One day this fall, I was catching up on tweets from people I follow, and I noticed much chatter about a book I hadn't even heard of -- Ghetto Cowboy by G. Neri.  While I have been behind on many books I wanted to read, this was different; it was a title that I'd never heard.  The people having the conversation were people who tend to have some of the same reading tastes as me, so I knew Ghetto Cowboy was a book I needed to read. 

Ghetto Cowboy is a work of fiction, though it is based on actual urban cowboys from the Philadelphia, Brooklyn, and Queens areas.  In fact G. Neri first learned about these cowboys while reading an article in Life magazine called "Street Cowboys."  I like his title much better - Ghetto Cowboy.

A quick setup to the story: The main character, Cole, has been badly misbehaving back in Detroit.  He has gotten in so much trouble, his mom, who is raising him alone, decides to deliver him to the father he didn't even know existed in Philadelphia, hoping that a man's influence would benefit Cole.  His dad's name is Harper and he helps maintain a stable in the ghettos of Philadelphia where they take in horses of all kinds.  For a hard-nosed, urban kid like Cole, this is all just a little bit too much to absorb.

I loved this book for so many reasons, but one of the biggest reasons is it reminded me so much of the Christopher Paul Curtis's books, The Watsons Go to Birmingham and Bud, Not Buddy. 
  • All of these books have urban settings as a backdrop.  
  • In addition, all these books use a dialect that matches both the characters and the settings.  
  • In each book, the main characters have fallen upon hard times of some sort. 
  • There is a journey that needs to take place in all of these stories, both a physical journey and a journey for the main characters  to find out a critical piece of who they really are.
  • All these stories rely on the some quirky secondary characters to help the main characters on their journey of self-discovery.
Ghetto Cowboy is a book that stayed with me so much, I've reread it two other times since my first reading.  I don't know if this book will get any recognition on January 23, but I do know that it is absolutely one of my top 5 favorite middle grade reads for 2011!!!!


  1. Enjoyed visiting your blog! You are right! Ghetto Cowboy is a book that stays with you. What a powerful book! And it reminds me, too, of Bud, Not Buddy--which I also loved. I look forward to checking more of your reviews in the future!

  2. I enjoyed it very much as well and hope it gets some recognition next week.


  3. I've been waiting for this title to show up in your reviews! So glad to see it did. As you know I LOVE this book, but more importantly, KIDS love this book! Right now we have 6 copies circulating through our 5th grade classrooms. It's a powerful story that I'm hoping gets some well deserved recognition next week.