Sunday, December 19, 2021

Concrete Cowboy & Polo Cowboy

Book cover with images from the movie including a profile of Idris Elba smiling in his cowboy hat and Cole also wearing a cowboy hat sitting astride a horse.
Concrete Cowboy by G. Neri illustrated by Jesse Joshua Watson

Publisher: Candlewick

Pages: 211

Publisher's summary: When Cole's mom dumps him in Philadelphia to live with the dad he's never met, the last thing Cole expects to see is a horse, let alone a stable full of them. He may not know much about cowboys, but what he knows for sure is that cowboys aren't black, and they don't live in the inner city. But in his dad's world, horses are a way of life, and soon Cole's days of skipping school and getting in trouble in Detroit have been replaced by shoveling muck and trying not to get stomped on. At first, all Cole can think about is how to ditch these ghetto cowboys and get home. But when the City threatens to shut down the stables--and take away the horse Cole has come to think of as his own--he knows that it's time to step up and fight back. Inspired by the little-known urban riders of Philly and Brooklyn, this compelling tale of latter-day cowboy justice champions a world where your friends always have your back, especially when the chips are down.

My Thoughts: I really enjoyed this book when I initially read it several years ago under the title Ghetto Cowboy. This was not only because it is well written, but also because it is about a neighborhood and way of life that I'd been unaware of before. Urban cowboys are certainly interesting and seeing that community working together was fascinating. 

Seeing Cole and his father adjusting to each other was powerful. The interactions and relationships in the story are so compelling especially the one of father to son. I reread the book so I would be able to make connections with the sequel and then I also watched the Netflix movie. The book and the movie are both  worth reading and watching though since the movie includes some things from the second book, it's a good idea to read both before watching. Here's an interesting clip with the actors talking about the father-son relationship central to the story.


Book cover of Polo Cowboy. Young Black man is on a horse looking at reader. A young Black woman has a polo malet slung over her shoulder and is also sitting on a horse with a slight smile on her face. She has patches of skin that are much lighter than the other skin on her face.
Polo Cowboy by G. Neri and illustrated by Jesse Joshua Watson

Publisher: Candlewick

Pages: 278

Review copies: Both ARCs provided by publisher 

Publisher's Summary: When Cole moves in with his dad, Harp, he thinks life will be sweet—just him and his horse, Boo, hanging out with Philadelphia’s urban cowboys. But when Harp says he has to get a job, Cole winds up as a stable hand for the polo team at George Washington Military Academy, where the players are rich, white, and stuck-up—all except Ruthie, the team’s first and only girl, who’s determined to show the others she can beat them at their own game. As Cole and Ruthie become friends—and maybe more—he starts imagining his future, maybe even at the academy. But between long workdays, arrogant polo players, and a cousin trying to pull Cole into his dangerous business, that future seems remote. Will Cole find the courage to stand and be seen in a world determined to keep him out? With striking illustrations by Jesse Joshua Watson, celebrated author G. Neri’s novel weaves themes of tenacity and community into a rousing sports story inspired by Philadelphia’s real-life urban cowboys and polo players.

G. Neri Talking About Polo Cowboy

My Thoughts: Cole still has a lot to learn about horses, being a young Black man, and relationships. Watching him put in effort and yet stumble over and over is difficult. Polo Cowboy isn't an easy book to read, but it is meaningful. Again, it deals with a topic that was unfamiliar to me. Polo is not a sport I have much experience with and for most middle grade readers it may also be new to them, but since Cole is in the position of a newbie, there is plenty of explanation. 

This is a great middle grade read that has the excitement of competition along with a bit of danger and a possibility of romance so there's a lot there to interest a variety of readers. It's one I can see many young readers enjoying. The addition of illustration is nice with both novels too. I hope to see many young readers picking up both books and getting to meet Cole and his friends and loved ones.

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