Ghetto Cowboy by G. Neri

author’s website including video trailer and teacher’s guide

Summary: Cole has caused his mother too much pain, so she abandons him at the doorstep of the man that abandoned them shortly after Cole’s birth. That doorstep is at a run down horse stable in the heart of one of Philadelphia’s dangerous neighborhoods. His father, Harper, has more talent for communicating with animals than with his own son.  Harper’s got his own problems with the City threatening to shut down the stables which would destroy the possibility of keeping the Cowboy Way for future generations to experience.

Personal Reaction: I felt that the problems are resolved rather quickly and easily and so thought this might be more of an elementary/middle grade novel. There is a heavy dose of historical & contemporary oppression by whites (“the man”), so this won’t soften students with that mindset. I enjoyed exploring all the information on the author’s website about the basis for the story!

Curriculum or discussion topics: This novel could be used by groups meeting to discuss anger management strategies (even paired with snippets from “Pitbulls and Parolees” Animal Planet channel show or I think there’s another show somewhere about animal therapy programs in prison); maybe arranged with a visit by therapy dogs or a field trip to a riding center?

Connections to other books: The Adventurous Deeds of Deadwood Jones by Hemphill (or maybe even Justin and the Best Biscuits in the World by Walter); Black Frontiers: A History of African American Heroes in the Old West by Schlissil; biographies of Nat Love or Bill Pickett; books about horses, training and care, racing or even rodeos

Items to display with book: cowboy hat; plastic horses; saddle, brush, blanket, boots, rope; Sixers or Pistons  basketball jersey; photographs of black cowboys (historical and contemporary – see author’s note/website)

Food items connected to story: Cole loves anything from McDonald’s and the horse eats an apple pie and carrots; pop tarts and orange juice; cowboy food like chili, stew, etc.

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