In Kate Hoefler’s realistic and poetic picture book debut about the wide open West, the myth of rowdy, rough-riding cowboys and cowgirls is remade. A timely and multifaceted portrayal reveals a lifestyle that is as diverse as it contrary to what we've come to expect.
Writing in prose with the lilt and plainspoken poetry of a classic cowboy song, debut author Hoefler makes a winning case that those who are home on the range are self-aware, empathic, conscientious, "as many different colors as the earth," and include "girls, too." Hoefler's text seamlessly blends the workaday with a sense of wonder. "Real cowboys are good listeners," she writes in one such passage. "They're always listening to their trail boss and to the other cowhands. Sometimes they listen for trucks, and wolves, and rushing water. And sometimes they just listen to the big wide world and its grass song." Bean (This Is My Home, This Is My School) beautifully echoes the allusive, musical quality of the text while nodding to the archetypes of the Old West. Working in layers of stenciled four-color imagery, he portrays steers mottled like fine marble, the blinding fury of a dust storm, and an endless night sky of sparkling stars. It may well persuade readers to trade their ninja outfits for chaps, bandanas, and 10-gallon hats. Ages 4 7. Illustrator's agent: Elizabeth Harding, Curtis Brown.