Saturday, July 21, 2018

Cowgirl books

born and raised on horseback
I promise I will do another post for the boys...but this one is for all the cowgirls out there weather you are on a farm or you just are a cowgirl at heart.  I grew up on a farm, I had my own horse when I was 3, and have adored horses ever since.  Both of my girls have been the same, growing up around the barn and so we have naturally been drawn to any and all books about horses, farms, and cowgirls.

that special bond
There is a special bond between people and horses, especially girls.  If you have a little girl who loves horses, chances are it is not "just a phase."  I have seen parents say this many times, and most of the time that little girl only grows more passionate about horses and riding.  I am 30 years old and still can't get enough of horses.  I use to be a ranch hand and then a horse back trail guide and there wasn't a time I wasn't jumping at the bit to hop on the back of a horse.

So these books I'm about to share with you are for the little girls that are like me.  They have been kid tested and approved by my own horse crazy girls.  I hope you and your cowgirls love them as much as we do.

The Every Cowgirl series  by Rebecca Janni

There are four of these books, I currently own three of them.  We were introduced to this series about six years ago and they are still well read in our house.  
Rebecca Janni completely understands how little girls who don't have horses feels.  This little girl in the series, Nellie Sue, is a cowgirl! But she doesn't have a horse, and you know every cowgirl needs a horse.  For her birthday she gets a "horse" which is really a bike, but with a child's dreams and imagination it's her horse.  That's one of the many things I love about this book is that it shows how you might not get what you really want but what you make the best of what you have.  The lessons continue in these books.  In the book where she gets her "horse" she has to learn how to ride and not give up when things go bad.  In Every Cowgirl Needs Dancing Boots it shows how hard work pays off to have a party and how to be a good friend.  In Every Cowgirl Loves a Rodeo not only does Rebecca Janni describe a country fair but shows how being in second place is okay as well.

Lynne Avril did the illustrations for all of the books and really captures young girls attention with the bright colors, and pink appears on each page in some way. The illustrations keep little ones attention on the story and engaged in the narritive.
Rebecca and Lynne both show a lot of knowledge of cowgirls, horses, and children through these books, from the art to the way Nellie Sue talks.

 I recently found that there are now early readers for the Every Cowgirl fan so I will be checking out these out very soon.

I Wanna Be A Cowgirl

written by Angela DiTerlizzi
illustrated by Elizabet Vukovic

This book makes me think of myself as a child.  Even though I lived on a small farm, with 4 horses, chickens, dogs, and large yards.  I wanted to be a cowgirl.  I was fortunate to get to travel and see much of the country when I was younger and I would day dream about moving west to the wide open country and living on a ranch and being a "real" cowgirl.  While that dream of a ranch out west has changed over the years the feeling hasn't, I still want a large farm of my own one day which is why I love this book.  It reminds me of my childhood day dreams.  I think it also is inspiring other little girls to dream of a different way of life.
Angela  DiTerlizzi painted a beautiful picture in my mind with her words.  I could clearly see a ranch with chickens, tall grass, a low hanging sun and doing the farm work, bathing in the creek, and being so tired when it was time for bed.  I loved her style of writing and the use of words we don't hear often like mosey, and grub.
The illustrations by Elizabet Vukovic show how the girl plays out her day dream with what she has, milking the cows is really pretending with a pair of gloves on the clothesline, bathing in the creek is jumping into her pool, and her horse is her stick pony.  I love the colors and the kids stay engaged in the story.

I love the pace of this book and the story of it so much I use it in a story time about being a cowgirl.  So it's a wonderful book to read one on one with your kids, or for them to read on their own, but it's a fantastic book for a group of children as well.

When doing a story time program you need more than one book to read to the group.  The story time I did was all about horses, and being a cowgirl.  I shared my own experience, and two books I've written but aren't yet published (I look forward to sharing them once they are.)  I read a about wild horses and then I came across this next book that might very well be my favorite of these cowgirl books...
a photo from the Cowgirl Roundup Story Time I did

If I Had A Horse by Gianna Marino

The very first thing I fell in love with in this book, the first thing that caught my eye, are the illustrations.  The watercolors are astonishing.  Gianna literally took my breath away as I turned each page.  I drank in the scene that was painted, the wild horse, the mountains in the background, the saturated colors, the girl that could be anyone because she left her in silhouette.  She could be blonde, red hair, she could be any nationality, race, or even maybe a little boy with long hair.  That any child could pick up this book, read it and picture them as the child in the illustrations is something rare and lovely.  I would love to have almost any page spread in this book as art on my wall to look at every day.
So the art is beautiful and it tells the story on its own, Gianna Marino could very well have left this a a wordless book.  She didn't, and the words, while simple, speak so loud about how the bond between a human and a horse is formed.  The words are just as beautiful as the art.  I say the words are simple because they aren't complicated, there isn't a country twang to them, and there are no more than 12 words on any page spread.  The way the Gianna wrote she doesn't need any of that.  I love the way she show an understanding of horses and relates it to the child reading the book.
  "He might be shy.  Like me."  "I would have to be strong. Like him."  
The emotions are there, the feeling of riding a horse and being free is there.
There is something extremely special about the bond between a girl and her horse, and it's all in this book.

While looking for other books to use for my cowgirl story time I came across many books I liked but couldn't use due to them not being a good group read, the Every Cowgirl books fall into this group.  Now I did find another book that like I Wanna Be A Cowgirl, had a good pace and the right amount of words that I could have used it.  I did not use it but will share it with you because everyone has a difference in opinion and you might find that it's a wonderful book and I'm crazy for not using it.

I Want To Be A Cowgirl

written by Jeanne Willis
Illustrated by Tony Ross

You can tell from the cover of the book that this is a city girl who wants to be a cowgirl.  That's great.  My issue with this book is that it's portrayed that you can't be a good girl, who likes to talk to other girls and wear dresses and be a cowgirl.  Yes cowgirls get dirty, yes it is a bad idea to wear fancy clothes to the barn, but that doesn't mean that cowgirls don't have that side to them.  This was the whole reason I didn't use the book.  This is a direct quote out of the book that came off Amazon's decription of the book:
I don't want to be a good girl-
Good girls have no fun.
I can't play quiet games indoors,
I love the rain and sun.
I don't want to be a girly girl
Who likes to sit and chat.
No, I'm sorry but I want to teach, not only my girls, but the children that I read to that they should be (and are) GOOD. 
I know the point of the story is that this girl wants to be out west and ride horses and get dirty and not be prim and proper in the city, and that's great, but I think there are other ways to tell that without putting the girls who are "girly girls" down, and that being a cowgirl means you're breaking rules and getting into trouble, because that's not what cowgirls do.
If you check out this book and see something in it that I missed you then comment below because I love conversations around books and think that the freedom to disagree on art and what message you get from books is one of the best things about reading.

While researching cowgirls and looking for books for this story time I came across two other more advanced readers that I loved and again they were too long for an all ages welcome story time, but I think you should curl up with your kids at home and read these two beautiful stories.

Sally Loves Horses!

by Jody Mackey

While there are illustrations on each page spread of the book the word count is much higher than in the previous picture books I shared.  I love this story of Sally who as the title implies loves horses.  She is learning how to ride and wants to be in a rodeo.  So we follow Sally as she learns how to ride, puts in a lot of hard work, has her struggles, and then gets to ride in a rodeo.  I love that this books shows how there are different levels of horses.  I think this is one of the most important things to know as a novice rider you want to start off with easy gentle horses and you will work your way up to advanced riding and high spirited, hot headed horses.  Jody Mackey shows how even in a sport like barrel racing that there is room for friends and how to be a good sportsman.

I have one non-fiction book I desperately wanted to include in my story time but it just didn't work for being read to a large group of young kids.  I did read and discuss it with my girls and I implore you to get a copy and share this unsung role model for girls.

The Original Cowgirl: The Wild Adventures of Lucille Mulhall

written by Heather Lang
pictures by Suzanne Beaky

This is a juvenile biography about Lucille Mulhall.  Have you heard of her?  I didn't.  I learned not only about who she was and what she did, but also about what life for girls was like in the turn of the 20th century.  There were no cowgirls back in the 1890's and it was unheard of for a lady to be in a competition against men.  In 1903 not only does she compete against men, but she beats them at steer roping.
I absolute love this book, and Lucille Mulhall who just sets such an example for little girls everywhere that they can be whatever they want.  That you don't let people tell you you can't do something because you are a girl.
In reading about Lucille I was surprised to learn that she not only meets Teddy Roosevelt and preforms in front of his audience at a Rough Riders show, but he is the one to encourage her to preform more.  If you remember I loved learning about the late president in The Camping Trip That Changed America and this just furthered that.  He was truly a great person who could not only accept a woman of talent but to support her in a time when women were still not able to vote and were suppose to be at home taking care of the house.
I'm sure writing a children's book about a woman who has such rich history couldn't have been an easy task, but Heather Lang has put together a book that reads easily and can be understood for children of a wide age range.  Suzanne Beaky put so much life into each illustration.  The horses face on the one page where Lucille ropes an unbroken horse is priceless and makes you laugh.
On the very last page Lang have a timeline of Lucille's life and more about her.
I read this book in one sitting with my girls.  I think it's one very inspiring and important book.  This woman, who really was just a young girl at first paved the way for many of us today to say we are cowgirls and proud of it.

For those with older and more advanced readers, if you are looking for chapter books there are many out there but I remember reading and loving The Saddle Club series.

 Before I leave you I want to share with you a couple movies that also inspire me and that I have loved and watched many times over.  The movies haven't gotten old for me and I still will put aside what I'm working on to watch them with my girls.

Mom's are you now inspired to read more about cowgirls? Or you just want to be swept away in a country story?  Of course I have adult books I have read and loved that I will share with you both fiction and non-fiction.

Please don't try this at home without adult supervision and someone to catch you

Dream big dreams cowgirls, and you will go on to achieve great things!!

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