An eloquent response to anyone with a simplistic picture of the cowboy as a rough, tough working man and nothing else.
Rough, tough, and hardworking they definitely are—but so much more besides: “Their work is to think of others,” writes Hoefler, from neighbors to “the calf stranded on the ridge.” They are gentle, to keep the cattle calm. They know how to listen and to stay safe, and even on a fast horse they “move with the slow rhythm of a herd.” They suffer losses and, echoing the revelation about pirates in Mem Fox’s classic, stereotype-busting Tough Boris, illustrated by Kathryn Brown (1994), “Real cowboys cry.” They take turns, they make art, they dream. More cosmically, “they wonder what’s past the horizon.” And when their work is done, the author concludes, “they find out.” In contrast to his typically bright, cleanly drawn style, Bean illustrates this cowboy paean in a digital stenciling technique that leaves low-contrast layers of shapes—some of these too indistinct to resolve easily. Moreover, though his figures properly diversify when he comes to the text “Real cowboys are as many different colors as the earth. Real cowboys are girls, too,” he rather misses the point by depicting all the cowboys on the other pages, so far as can be told, as generically light-skinned and apparently male.
A positively inspirational unpacking of a traditional role model, hobbled but not entirely unhorsed by its illustrations. (Picture book. 6-9)