Smoky the Cowhorse (MG)

by Will James

This book is the story of a wild range horse, Smoky, from birth through his time helping his favorite cowboy wrangle cattle and beyond, offering a look at cowboy culture and the life of a horse in the west from a horse’s perspective.

Despite the fact that the horse’s perspective is very well done (as someone who grew up loving horse stories, I loved the beginning sections about growing up on the range and working with the cowboys), I can not recommend this book. My largest issue with it is racism: the two worst characters in the book were people of color.  A milder issue is the narrative voice—it is written in the dialect and slang of a cowboy, and the word choice/order was often jarring. I frequently had to reread sentences to figure out what was meant. My third problem with the book is that there are several scenes of animal abuse perpetrated by the bad guys. I was not expecting this and nearly stopped reading, but I was already invested in the horse and wanted to see how he made out. (Spoiler: it does have a happy ending.)

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