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Smoky the Cow Horse

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  6,373 ratings  ·  271 reviews
Smoky knows only one way of life: freedom. Living on the open range, he is free to go where he wants and do what he wants. And being a smart colt, he learns what he must in order to survive. He can beat any enemy whether it be a rattlesnake or a hungry wolf. He is as much a part of the Wild West as it is of him, and Smokey can't imagine anything else.

But then he comes

Paperback, 310 pages
Published April 1st 1993 by Aladdin Paperbacks (first published 1926)
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Average rating 3.95  · 
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 ·  6,373 ratings  ·  271 reviews

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Benji Martin
May 01, 2014 rated it did not like it
I woke up to a beautiful morning. It was a stereotypical beautiful morning. The sun was shining, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. It was nice and cool. We’re in the middle of an pleasant Alabama spring, which lasts for like two weeks before the scorching heat sets in, and makes everything miserable until November. By far, though, the most beautiful part about waking up this morning, was that, as of last night, I was no longer in the middle of Smoky the Cow Horse.

I’m finished! Through! I feel
Sep 20, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: newbery
So glad I'm finally done with this book.

The written-in-dialect thing is interesting, and occasionally even poetic, and I might have thought this was a fairly good book if it was really, really short. But 300+ pages of double negatives and other grammar mistakes was hard to wade through.

As others have said, it does get more interesting in the last 100 pages (there's a story), but it's still not that great; and there's a dreadful racial stereotype (evil "halfbreed" Mexican/African American, always
Oct 07, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I first read this book in the fifth grade (oh, so long ago...) and I loved it. I re-read it every year until I graduated high school and loved it every time. I'm not sure I'd still love it quite so much if I was reading it for the first time as an adult, as I haven't read it since, but I look on it with fond memories.

If you have a horse crazy son or daughter, I would definitely add this book to their library, right next to The Black Stallion, Black Beauty, Misty of Chincoteague and My Friend
Jun 28, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: (With Caveat) Readers Who Enjoy Horse Stories
Winner of the 1927 Newbery Medal, this children's novel about a mouse-colored cow-horse named Smoky has been favorably compared to that classic (and pioneering) pony story, Black Beauty , and I think the pairing is rather apt. Both books follow the same basic narrative trajectory, beginning with a horse whose owners are responsible and kind, following him through his early years of prosperity and well-being, his traumatic middle years, suffering at the hands of less enlightened human beings, ...more
Mar 30, 2009 rated it it was amazing
"There was so much life wrapped up in that pony's hide that it was mighty hard for him to settle down and behave...he sometimes had to bust out and do things that wasn't at all proper..."

—Smoky the Cowhorse, P.47

"The poor (horse) had sure got a reason to be mean, and I guess he's at the point where he figgers no human is his friend any more." —Smoky the Cowhorse, P. 229

Wow. My expectations for a book with the Newbery Medal on the cover are always sky high, but Smoky the Cowhorse meets those
Jul 20, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I read this book to my little girl (who is now 26) when she was in the elementary(first learning to read).
It's a good horse book telling the life of Smoky and that part I think is what fascinates children.How he starts off shy and timid.But when he's moved to the working ranch He toughens up gets stronger.
May 12, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this book when I was 12 and it left a very lasting impression on me. At one point in my life about 15 years ago I was in a book group and I said this book was one of my favorites. My friends, under the influence of wine, laughed. I was mortified. Later, one of them who is a really GREAT friend bought me an original copy from an antique store - which I treasure. There is actually a Will James Society in Montana, so I think I am not crazy when I say that this book contributed greatly to my ...more
May 31, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Tom Johnson
May 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The illustrations are what set this edition apart. Front cover pasteboard, front and back endsheets, and 6 more color full page plates throughout the text. The first reproductions of James' oils. His art makes all the difference. His story isn't bad either; sort of standard Black Beauty West but for a kid's book it's all good stuff. I started out by reading animal stories; I loved them and this 'Smoky' is as good as it gets.

But then there was this jolt
Jennifer (JenIsNotaBookSnob)
I am so very glad to finally have this book finished. Back during my horse book fetish of my early teens, I may have enjoyed this a bit. It does have a very slow beginning, spending the first 150 pages on just repetitive trips across the range. Unfortunately, not recommended for racism throughout the second half of the book. I was expecting racism against Native Americans, but, it's actually Mexicans that get the brunt of the racism in this book. You can be treated to the word halfbreed on about ...more
Anna Smithberger
Nov 01, 2017 rated it did not like it
I definitely remember reading this book before (well before I had goodreads) and liking it fine. Trying to read it again, I hated it. It was boring, the dialect bugged me, and I am not a horse girl. Oh god, I am so sorry for disagreeing with Kaia about how horrible this book was!
Mar 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
- This is the first Newbery Award Winner that I've read this year that I really feel deserved the award.

- I loved this book. I got SO attached to Smoky.

- Smoky had an incredible journey. There were so many ups and downs, and I kept hoping that Clint and Smoky would be reunited.

- I admit it, I cried. . . a lot. I finished this on a Saturday morning, and I couldn't stop crying. I cried all through breakfast, and morning chores. My daughter thought I was crazy. My husband just laughed at me.

- I
Deborah Blair
Mar 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: children and adults who love horses, nature and real old time cowboys
Recommended to Deborah by: My dear maternal Grandmother - Florida Bell Irvine Leitch
Shelves: children-s-books
This was one of my most cherished books as a child. My maternal Grandmother, Florida Bell Irvine Leitch, was an educated school teacher at the turn of the 1900s, when few ladies had educations - - - she would hitch rides on milk wagons to get to the one room school houses that she taught in. Her family were poor, but good, Presbyterian Scots who dedicated themselves to educating and helping the poor miners' children and others. Although she could only guess at what my mother and aunts were doing ...more
Wayne Walker
Nov 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
Smoky is a mouse-colored horse which is born on the range. After a couple of years, he is taken to the Rocking R Ranch where he is trained by a thirty-year-old cowboy named Clint to be a cowhorse. The cowhorses work during the spring, summer, and fall on the ranch, but are let back out on the range to forage in the winter. Clint, who is especially fond of the mouse-colored horse, always tries to check on Smoky through each winter, but one year he is detained for several reasons, and when he ...more
Mar 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
In the movie Tex the teacher tells Tex,

"You can't do two book reports on Smokey The Cow Horse."

He says, "But I read it twice."

I grew up in central California. In the third grade (I think) the teacher read a few pages a day from the book. Reading it all these years later was an emotional trip Dow memory lane. Farming, ranching, oil and the military were the economic basis of life in my home town. Maybe half the kids in my elementary school lived out in the country and rode the bus daily to
May 15, 2012 rated it liked it
I had to hurry up and read this so I could help my grandson Bryan with a book report. I was actually surprised that I liked the book. The first part appeals to my environmental nature by explaining what life is like for wild mustangs out in the wild. I love the descriptions! The second part appeals to my love of cowboys in the Old West. I loved the descriptions of branding, roping, cattle drives, round ups, and tales of ranch life. I liked (that might not be the right word) tales of what ...more
Dixie Diamond
Black Beauty for the cowgirl.

I understand readers' concerns re: racism and sexism. Obviously I don't condone it, but we do understand, don't we, that those attitudes are par for the course in literature that age? Even Louisa May Alcott wrote rather disparagingly of the Irish in Little Women. Instead of being smug and judgmental about the grammar (which was intentional, anyway) and attitudes, how about using it as a discussion starter about (well, a lot of things): Racial attitudes, treatment of
Dec 11, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: newbery-winners
Newbery Medal Winner--1927

This one is two star because the description fits--it was okay. The first 150 pages or so run long--it's basically a running description of the day-to-day life of Smoky the horse. A run-in with wolves is somewhat exciting, and the processing of breaking Smoky by Clint was interesting, but it kind of gets depressing from there. The one shining moment is when Old Tom tries to take Smoky from Clint and is thrown repeatedly--but what follows is a sad tale of being stolen,
Jun 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing
It took me a while to get past the cowboy dialect of the narrator -- to stop correcting the grammar in my head as I read -- and to stop hearing Morgan Freeman's voice doing the narrating (yes, Morgan Freeman speaking in cowboy dialect was very distracting for me!), but once I got past all that, the narrative voice added a a wonderful, heartfelt perspective to the story. This is a beautiful book that will grab your heart, make it sing, and then break it into a million pieces. Told from the point ...more
Apr 08, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: amazing, 2010-books
Smoky the Cow Horse tells the story of that unique, deep bond that sometimes happens between a human and his pet--although "pet" is a misnomer here. This story is stunning and beautiful, the narrator's unique sit-back-and-let-me-tell-you-a-tale voice patiently tying your heartstrings to Smoky. And--patience is what you need with this book because James takes the time to really develop the relationship between the reader and Smoky. It's worth it. A beautiful story of true love and it's ability to ...more
Mar 17, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: newbery
I never saw a mouse that was the rich black color shown on the cover of this book and in the line drawings within the book. So I did not like that Smoky was continually called a mouse colored horse. I also did not like the old cowboy grammer. I cannot imagine any modern child I know being able to get through this book. Near the end, when Smoky said exactly what I think my horse on few and far between trail rides is saying about me, I had to laugh and think that Clint, Smoky, and Will James ...more
Jun 19, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: newbery-s
What a writer really. A true to the time story that ranks with all the great Horse writers. This is one of those authers that is lost to the modern generation. The story was engaging and fun. The views on the mexican population were racest but it is a book of it's time period. The edition I read had the auther's illstrations as well and they were just beautiful.
Mar 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing
this is my second favorite book...i really love the went through a lot of trouble from the day it was born...i even hated the people who wanted to hurt smoky...smoky got a lot of names and have been to a lot of places and he was hurt...but i was really glad when he meet up with his partner again at the end...i even's no joke...
Jul 14, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: newbery-win
This is one of the bigger books, and it started off kind of slow, which can make a person worry. How fascinating can a book written from the perspective of a horse get? But around halfway through, as Smoky starts to really face peril, I found myself unable to put the book down. I was fully engaged. So while there were a few slow bits, it's not nearly as rough as I thought it would be.
Mar 25, 2008 rated it really liked it
We read this a couple years ago and my boy who was about 6 at the time loved it. I enjoyed it as well although I found it difficult to read out loud because the grammar the characters use is terrible! But that really adds to the fun of the story. Its follows the life of Smoky through good times and bad. I would recommend this to anyone who likes horses or longs for the old west.
Aug 07, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I just finished this book because I'm reading all of the Newberry Honor Books thanks to Tammy's great list of them. I loved this book. It is heart-warming and exciting and funny and sweet. It's got some great life lessons in it from the perspective of a good little pony named Smoky.
Jennifer Cooper
Mar 05, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My all time favorite book. I have one of the originals I read from time to time. I love westerns and all of his books. His artwork is awesome!
Mar 20, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have loved this book more than any other ever since I first read it at about ten. I have two copies of it that are at least 50 years. I have probably read it 15 times.
Colby Sharp
I can't tell if this book is 3 stars or 2 stars. The 3 Newbery books before Smoky were so hard for me to read, that Smoky seemed so good. I wish it were 200 hundred pages shorter.
Ashley Jacobson
A great book, when read at the right age. This is the story of Smokey, the horse, who lives the perfect wild life before meeting a man who changes his life. Then his life is changed one year and he has some sad and some great adventures. It is told from the point of view of a third person narrator, but mostly follows Smokey around only tells the scenes he is experiencing. There are some tough and sad events that happen, so I won't be reading this with Kai until he is 8 or 10, but I know he'll ...more
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Children's Books: Winner (no Honors) from 1927 - Smoky the Cow Horse 7 96 Jul 25, 2016 03:00AM  

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Will James (1892-1942), artist and writer of the American West, was born Joseph Ernest Nephtali Dufault. It was during his creative years everyone grew to know him as Will James. During the next several years, he drifted, worked at several jobs, was briefly jailed for cattle rustling, served in the army, and began selling his sketches and in 1922 sold his first writing, Bucking Horse Riders. The ...more
“For that pony had got tangled up in the cowboy's heartstrings a heap more than that cowboy wanted to let on, even to himself. He couldn't get away from how he missed him.” 10 likes
“There was so much life wrapped up in that pony's hide that it was mighty hard for him to settle down and behave...he sometimes had to bust out and do things that wasn't at all proper...” 6 likes
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