Real Cowboys by Kate Hoefler, illustrated by Jonathan Bean (InfoSoup)
This picture book takes a look at the skills that really make up a cowboy’s work. It’s not a book about lassoing and riding quickly. Instead the skills that a cowboy needs are things like patience, something that allows them to ride slowly along with the herd. They need to be about to ask for help from others and treat their dogs well. They have to be considerate of those around them and of the environment they ride through. They need to be strong but also careful and caring. They can be girls and are people of all colors. Their jobs may not be all fast horses and wild ruckus, but somehow the quiet reality is all the more heroic.
Hoefler chooses qualities of cowboys’ lives that match those that small children will be learning in classrooms and at home. They ability to share, to take turns, to be considerate, to ask for help. They are all things that we all need to know how to do in our lives. She then writes them in a poetic way that demonstrates how those qualities really matter when out on the range, how they make the job safer. Hoefler also speaks to the loneliness that cowboys feel and the sadness when cattle and dogs are lost.
The illustrations by Bean are bright and stylish. They move from glaring sun to winter storms to deep blue night. Throughout there are the shadows of the land they move through and the cattle they watch. Bean captures the slump of tired shoulders, the wild movement of a stampede, and the beauty of stars above.
A surprising look at cowboys that makes it clear what it takes to be a hero and a good human being. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.