Twelve-year-old Cole has messed up one too many times, and now his mother has taken him from Detroit to Philadelphia to live with his father, whom Cole doesn’t know.
Turns out Philadelphia isn’t much like Detroit. It’s the ’hood all right, but there are horses and stables and cowboys, right in the city. His father and his community of cowboys are continuing a tradition of urban cowboys dating back to the Civil War, maintaining stables and taking on kids to teach responsibility and provide an alternative to gangs and street life. But Cole doesn’t buy it: “You guys is funny. We in the city, with cars and computers and stuff, and you think you back in the Wild, Wild West!” Gradually, though, Cole finds he has a way with a horse named Boo, and in taking care of Boo he finds a new life for himself. It’s a fascinating glimpse of a culture most readers will not have heard of, and the author’s note leads to Neri’s website, with many links to articles and videos on the subject. Watson’s illustrations in pencil, ink and acrylic add a satisfying visual dimension.
Cole doesn’t ride off into the sunset here, but he does, at least, ride off to a better future. (Fiction. 10-14)