Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

All About America: Cowboys and the Wild West

All About America: Cowboys and the Wild West

Hilarie N. Stanton
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 6 to 8
Kingfisher UK, 2011   ISBN: 978-0753465103

Many children are attracted to stories and films that feature cowboys. They like to dress up as cowboys and pretend that they are chasing fugitives from justice across wide open prairies and scorching deserts. In truth cowboys were working men whose job it was to watch over, round up, and move cattle from the ranges where they were born to markets where they were sold. These cattle drives “involved hard, dirty, lonely and low-paid work,” and the cowboys had to deal with cattle stampedes, inclement weather, outlaws, and cattle rustlers. It was not a glamorous life.

In this well written and wonderfully presented book young readers will find out that the original cowboys were vaqueros who came up to Texas from Mexico. While on horseback, these men could skillfully rope and capture cattle and horses. Then, in the 1830’s, people started moving west to Texas where they set up ranches. They hired cowboys who had learned how to manage the cattle from the vaqueros who were settled there.

Driving the cattle on foot for long distances was not the most efficient way to do business. Then, in 1867, a businessman built a stockyard next to a train station in Abilene in Kansas and he invited ranchers to bring their cattle there. Buyers could purchase the cattle at the stockyard and then ship them by train to locations to the east.

In addition to moving the cattle during the drives ( which could last many months), the cowboys worked on the ranches, looking after the cattle and the horses, fixing equipment and fences, gathering wood, and doing other more domestic chores.

Cowboys spent a considerable amount of time in the saddle, as many of the jobs that they did required that they do so on horseback. This meant that they had to be skilled horsemen who could control the horse they were riding and get the animal to complete difficult tasks.

With an engaging narrative, colorful anecdotes, annotated illustrations, and period artwork and photos, this All About America title is sure to engage young readers who are interested in cowboys.