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Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Real Cowboys, written by Kate Hoefler and illustrated by Jonathan Bean. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Raincoast. 2016. $23.99 ages 4 and up

"They're on cattle drives
for hours, or days, or
weeks, but they don't
mind. Real cowboys
are patient. Even on a
fast horse, they have to
move with the slow
rhythm of the herd, and
it can take a long time ... "

Kate Hoefler uses poetic language for this homage to the modern cowboy. She shares a realistic picture of the daily work that keeps a real cowboy busy. She does so with a quiet grace that shows cowboys to be quiet, thoughtful of others, gentle in their handling of the animals in their charge, and peaceful while singing songs to keep the howling of coyotes at bay when settling their herds.

They are tireless travelers, keen listeners, and they stay safe in the face of hot sun, and the other dangers in their environment. They are patient, strong and willing to ask for and give help whenever it is needed. Their dogs are integral to their work:

"Real cowboys are good to their dogs.
They have a special way of talking to them.
Cowboys say "Go by" and "Look back,"
and their dogs listen, driving in a lost heifer."

In the event of a real disaster, cowboys are known to show they care. They work together protecting their herds, eating their food, and catching some shut-eye. They are many colors, and both genders. They are wanderers and wonderers, deserving of our admiration. The reader comes away from the book with a greater appreciation of the hard work these men and women undertake on a daily basis.
It is a wondrous book, quietly read.

I always eagerly anticipate new artwork done by Jonathan Bean. I am a huge admirer of his work! His artwork is described for this book: "The illustrations are hand-stenciled shapes and textures layered with the computer and printed in four Pantone colors." Blending that palette, he creates a remarkable world of cowboys in profile, and focused on the work at hand. Shadows and light play a vibrant role in making the reader aware of all aspects of that work. Moods change as his stunning backgrounds move from frightening to sad to cheerful to contemplative.

This book is very special.

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