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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Ghetto Cowboy - Greg Neri

Released August 2011

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

Ghetto Cowboy blends fact with fiction. A city is the last place you'd expect to find a horse stable, outside of use by police officers, however they are more common than some might think. In Philadelphia, horse stables are being torn down to make room for growth. This creates the factual basis for Ghetto Cowboy.

After getting into trouble again, Cole's mom decides she's had enough. She travels from Detroit to Philadelphia and leaves him with his father. At first, Cole doesn't take her seriously, but when she drives off he's stunned. How can a mother turn her back on her child?

Cole's father owns horses. This surprises Cole as they are in the middle of the city. Yet, he gets drawn into his father's passion and soon is taking care of horses and even riding them. However, the city planners and many residents want the horses out. Cole decides to join his father's battle to keep the horses in the city.

I'd like to say I loved Ghetto Cowboy, but the truth is it was okay. It's nothing I'd want to add to my keeper shelf. It's well written, but the plot didn't grip me as I'd expected. It meanders along without ever really drawing me in to either the characters or action.

Given that, the subject matter did intrigue me. I didn't realize horse owners existed within the city. Boarding them in abandoned buildings--squatting is what it comes down to for me. Plus, horse owners care for their horses. From articles I read, many shoe their horses themselves. Others even handle veterinary care. I understand their love of the horses, but it raises questions to me. Would you doctor your own children without a degree? For that reason, I can see the city's viewpoint. It becomes a tough situation because many kids turn their lives around because of the horses, but as a former horse owner, I also don't feel an abandoned warehouse is the right environment for these animals. This makes the book's main issue a very debatable topic that would suit a classroom discussion incredibly well.

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