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Ghetto Cowboy

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  2,484 ratings  ·  362 reviews
A street-smart tale about a displaced teen who learns to defend what's right-the Cowboy Way.

Twelve-year-old Cole's behavior causes his mother to drive him from Detroit to Philadelphia to live with a father he has never known, but who soon has Cole involved with a group of African-American "cowboys" who rescue horses and use them to steer youths away from drugs and gangs.
Hardcover, 218 pages
Published August 9th 2011 by Candlewick Press
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Darrell McCauley You need to consider both father and son, who are named after a poet and a jazz musician, respectively. Michael Harper wrote a poem about jazz musicia…moreYou need to consider both father and son, who are named after a poet and a jazz musician, respectively. Michael Harper wrote a poem about jazz musician John Coltrane. The poem is titled, "Dear John, Dear Coltrane."(less)

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Average rating 3.88  · 
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Sep 13, 2011 rated it really liked it
Fun Fact: Parents these days speak in code. As a New York children’s librarian I had to learn this the hard way. Let’s say they want a folktale about a girl outwitting a witch. I pull out something like McKissack's Precious and the Boo Hag and proudly hand it to them. When I do, the parent scrunches up their nose and I think to myself, “Uh-oh.” Then they say it. “Yeah, um . . . we were looking for something a little less . . . urban.” Never mind that the book takes places in the country. In this ...more
Rebecca McNutt
An inspiring tale of a boy who finds solace in horse rescue, Ghetto Cowboy offers an excellent contrast between typical teen life and a more serene, peaceful world of Philadelphia's own inner-city cowboys. The main character, Cole, is easy to relate to and I liked him right away; the author has a real talent for bringing him and the others to life and making this story feel real. This is more deep than just a horse story though, it's also a family story. As Cole reunites with his estranged fathe ...more
You know you want to read a book with this title: Ghetto Cowboy. I mean, c'mon--doesn't that pique your interest just a teeny tiny bit??

This was a very cool book on a number of levels. First, I had no idea that there WERE such things as ghetto cowboys (and, yes, there are!). Cool.

Second, the single-parent-drops-kid-off-with-long-lost-other-parent plot line has gotten old. Until now. Somehow, the setting of an urban stable with ghetto cowboys makes it cool. Really.

Third, the parents are better pa
Aug 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
Awesome book!

This excellent book was a fairly quick read with a interesting plot, great characters, and a rousing message. The book begins with African American 7th grader Cole getting suspended from school for the rest of the school year for vandalism after skipping school for four weeks. His mama decides to take action by driving him from Detroit to Philadelphia to live with the father he has never known. There he discovers an unusual world of a stable full of cowboys right in the middle of i
Jul 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I took WAY too long to read this. Almost actually too long.

I got it originally at a library conference in 2012 (signed by the author, no less), and because I had a copy with no due date, didn't read it until summer 2016. I liked it even more than I expected to, and ended up booktalking it to my local middle schools in January 2017.

We meet Cole in the midst of a traumatic event in his life, and watch him encounter the nature of animals in an unnatural habitat. The story eventually gets to NIMBY i
Deacon Tom F
Jun 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Totally current for today's racial struggles. It is inspired by the real-life urban black horsemen of North Philadelphia and the Brooklyn-Queens area.

Great read.
Sep 18, 2013 rated it it was ok

the last thing Cole expected to see was a horse, and that is what he saw. this urban realistic-fiction book is about a bad kid (Cole) moved to philly with his dad that he never met before, but at the end he learns, The Cowboy Way.i thought the book had many mistakes but some parts were good, overall, not good 2 stars. Some parts i will show you about so you see my statement. too mush slang, like, "they is electricians",and "I is going get me some food", and that is not how ki
Oct 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I can't believe I didn't read this book until now.

4th grade book talk
Picture a cowboy for a second. You’re probably thinking of someone in the Wild West, in the desert, with a cowboy hat and cowboy boots, a lasso, a horse and saddle, and some cows. Right? What color skin do these cowboys in your head have? White, but tanned from being out in the sun, right?
Cole, the main character of this book, thinks the same way you do. All the cowboys you or he has seen on TV or in movies are white – but he
Jul 21, 2013 rated it did not like it
Who exactly is the audience for this book? The voice of the narrator would suggest that it is for middle school aged kids, particularly black kids. However, there is not a kid that age I know that would enjoy the story in the least. Not only is it a kids book about horses in an urban setting, which is boring enough, but there is nothing real to connect with or like about the narrator. I can certainly see why it was chosen as a nominee for the Rebecca Caudill Award as it is exactly the kind of ga ...more
Aug 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ya, 2019
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Robert Kent
Feb 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
But here, Esteemed Reader, is G. Neri and his new classic, Ghetto Cowboy. It's a gripping read for readers of any age, and if you're a writer working on your voice, Ghetto Cowboy is a book you definitely want to read as G. Neri is all about nailing the voice of his protagonist Witness how he writes Cole (short for Coltrane, naturally) as a genuine character who says the things Cole would say the way he would say them (but without all the swearing I imagine he might include if this were YA instea ...more
Ordinarily, I would not pick up a novel with the word 'ghetto' in the title. I have many thoughts and feelings about the word, the most prominent being that a ghetto is a neighborhood, full-stop, so why are we treating them differently from neighborhoods that have a lot more money? (Where is the special nickname for rich, white neighborhoods?) When that neighborhood is forced upon Jewish people, it sends one image; when it denotes under-resourced Black Americans, there's a different message. Nei ...more
Kirsten Jensen
Sep 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
Maybe hearing horse hooves clop down your city street or watching teens on horseback stop by to survey the Shakespeare in the park crowd is what really finalizes your love for Philly. Maybe it hasn't because you haven't had the pleasure yet. This novel catches some of that experience.

The Fletcher Street stables (and other urban riding clubs) are a story worth telling and a story that needs to continue. Whether you read this book or not I hope your interest is piqued to find out more.
Lauren Waters
Jun 28, 2017 rated it liked it
The characters and plot started out really strong at the start of the book but fell a little flat in the middle. Overall, the story unfolded an important message of standing up for your beliefs and community as well as family.
Jun 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
This was a really interesting if quick read. I would've liked to have seen more about the history of black cowboys and how the stables in Philly came about, but I suppose that's what actual history is for as opposed to a middle grade novel.
Nov 11, 2013 rated it liked it
I'm sure you met or knew/know someone that is a troublemaker in school. Well in this book Cole is one, but only worse. My opinion in this and Realistic Fiction book is that there is lots of cool action and you will probably enjoy it right from the beginning of the story. I think this book might go good for someone who wants action in their story and get a little sad in it too. To me this was a really cool book, I loved all the action and all the characters.

A 7th grader named Cole that makes his
Joannie Caraballo-López
Oct 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This review is required for Dr. Sykes' READ5351 course at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor. Ghetto Cowboy is written in first person point of view from the perspective of the main character Cole. The setting of the story takes place in an urban, rundown neighborhood of Philadelphia. The protagonist, main character is Cole a twelve year old boy who ditched school and frequently got himself into trouble. The antagonist of the story or secondary character in the book is Harper, an African Ameri ...more
Jan 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Ghetto Cowboy is G. Neri's most recent take at delving into a news story and pulling out an incredibly compelling (and hilarious) story from it.

The book starts out with Cole's mother finding out that he's been cutting school for a month and driving him from Detroit to Philly to leave him on his father's doorstep--a man who Cole has never met. Within his first five minutes in Philly his mother runs into a horse with her car, and he sees his father, who greets him with a scowl wearing a cowboy hat
What a delightful book for preteen and teen boys who are nonreaders, or chose not to read, for whom books like Hatchet, might as well take place on the moon. Or for anyone, old or young, urban, suburban or rural, reader or not there yet, who likes a good story, with a fascinating setting and refreshingly good characters.

“’The Cowboy Way is, no matter what, never ever give up fighting when the chips are down. Real cowboys never give up,’ Harp says…

‘Ain’t nothing changed,’ says Jamaica Bob. ‘Cow
***Spoiler alert***

Have you ever been so bad that your mom took you to your dad's house? Well this book's genre is realistic fiction. this book is the best book I've read this year.

this story takes place in the "Philles" Philadelphia & Detroit.Cole wanted to stay with his mom, but his mom doesn't want him there, so she took Cole to his father's house, then he would visit his father in the summer & his mom during the school year.the conflict is person vs self vs person, because he is figh
Nov 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
Appeal Characteristics: urban cowboys, father-son relationship, black male relationships, urban life, gangs, truancy, mother-son relationship, coming of age story

This book reminded me sorta of an urbanized Hoot. It is actually based on a real place that specifically caters to urban males to help them put down a gun and pick up a horse. Neri places a special note about how he found the article and where you can find more information on the actual place. This book has definitely piqued my intere
Randy Daugherty
Coltrane "Cole" to his friends is from Detroit, motor city and has his mother to her wits end, not knowing what to do she takes him to Philadelphia, to drop him off with a father he has never seen.
Harp barely take scare of himself , horses and the kids in the neighborhood, how can he take care of one more little alone his own?
Harp runs a stable in the Fletcher area, the one safe zone , protected from the influence of the gangs where Harp tried to give the boys something to believe in, a set of v
Kellee Moye
I loved this book so much. I know that I love a book when I am listening to the audio book and I don't want to get out of my car. Also, I normally do not bring my audio books inside, but with this one I had to because I didn't want to stop. I was fascinated by the modern history it shared with me about Philadelphia as well as the history about cowboys and horses. I was enthralled by Coltrane and his coming of age story. I loved most of the minor characters and I rooted for everyone throughout. T ...more
Jun 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
I can't image giving up on my child, though there were times I truly wanted to! Cole and his father are strong characters, Neri does a fantastic job of sucking you in, keeping you reading, and wondering what would happen next to this 12 year old protagonist due to his immature decision making. Written in first person narrative, Cole speaks in getto-speak throughout the whole book, and no one corrected his grammar, not even once. Sounds a great deal like some of our students, but you can be assur ...more
Francesca Forrest
Apr 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This was really wonderful. I wish I'd read it all in one go instead of with a big gap in the middle, but the story was so tightly woven that I could fall right back into it.

It really has everything--a great protagonist, interesting, believable supporting characters, a plot with both personal and larger-than-personal stakes, a wonderful narrative voice, and a really good ending. I was a little worried how things were going to work out between Cole and his mother, but Neri handled it really well.
Aug 21, 2011 rated it liked it
Interesting glimpse into the world of urban black cowboys holding on and fighting to keep the cowboy way of life.

12 year old Cole's delinquent attitude causes his mother to drive him from Detroit to Philadelphia, where his father lives. After dropping him off, Cole realizes she's never coming back and that he has to either run away or learn more about being a cowboy.

Inner-city horsemen have a great history and are a fascinating subject for a book. I only wish that this book had been designed as
Donna Gephart
Dec 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Ghetto Cowboy illuminates a tradition many people may not have learned about.

I lived in Philadelphia more than 30 years and had never heard about the cowboys and stables in North Philadelphia, giving kids a chance to care for horses rather than join gangs.

Neri's story, while based in fact, focuses on a fictional character, Cole, and his struggle to find his place in the world. It's well-told, uses realistic, gritty dialogue and grips readers with a story that needs to be read.

This book belongs i
Abby Johnson
Feb 24, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: audio
Not exactly my thing (never got into horse stories, although the urban cowboy thing is pretty cool and a nice differentiation from your typical horse story), but this is a great choice for tweens. I'd hand it to kids looking for a different spin on a horse story or kids looking for age-appropriate street lit. Excellent narration by JD Jackson makes this an appealing listen and the music that starts and ends each disc sets the tone nicely.
Apr 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Neri has picked a truly unique (but absolutely authentic) setting for his story - the stables and corrals of inner-city Philadelphia. Coltrane, the main character, is sent to live with a father he has never met after his mother has hit her limit. The father is more talented with horses than he is with his own son, but their journey toward each other is lovingly (but not too easily) depicted.
Oct 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I read this book with my fifth graders! It was amazing. Relatable, entertaining, thought provoking, and emotional. My students begged me to read more everyday. And after we finished, several of them checked it out from the library. This has lots of great opportunities for students to respond with connections and it's also great for inferencing.
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G. Neri is the Coretta Scott King honor-winning author of Yummy: the Last Days of a Southside Shorty and the recipient of the Lee Bennett Hopkins Promising Poet Award for his free-verse novella, Chess Rumble. His books have been translated into multiple languages in over 25 countries. They include the novels Tru & Nelle, A Christmas Tale, Ghetto Cowboy, Knockout Games, Surf Mules, and two free-ver ...more

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“When gangs took over the [abandoned public land in Philadelphia] and the neighborhood took a turn for the worse, horses became a way of saving lives. By getting boys interested in raising a horse rather than killing another human being, these cowboys gave the youth something positive: father figures, focus, and the ability to stand tall.” 5 likes
“Looks like you a cowboy after all.” 1 likes
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