Title: Ghetto Cowboy
Author: G. Neri
Illustrator: Jesse Joshua Watson
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Concepts: scarcity, property rights, incentives
Review: It seemed that this time, Cole's mother had thrown in the towel and given up on him. Cole had gotten himself into enough trouble to risk getting kicked out of school, or at least having to repeat seventh grade. Having reached the conclusion that she could no longer handle him, Cole's mother drove all the way from their Detroit home to Philadelphia to drop him off with his father, a man Cole had not seen since he was a baby.
Cole's tough-guy attitude in no way prepared him for what he encountered in Philly. Turns out his father, Harper, lived in an abandoned part of the city with a group of other black men caring for horses that had nowhere else to go but the slaughterhouse. Not only did these urban cowboys feed and shelter the horses in a couple of makeshift stables, they also provided the local youth with a safe zone where they could work rather than join the gangs. Cole arrived at a difficult time though, because city officials decided they wanted to reclaim the land in order to build a new mall and condos. Cole would need to decide between going back to his old behaviors or following a new path as a true cowboy.
This well-crafted novel, based on the real-life situations of urban black cowboys in North Philadelphia and the Brooklyn-Queens area, has both well-developed characters and an exciting plot. Moreover, the storyline is built around several economics themes, including the role of property rights in empowering productive activities and the power of incentives in influencing decisions. Ghetto Cowboy should not be missed.
Review by: Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children