School has been out in our area for about a month. Classes in Montana and North Dakota typically start before Labor Day and dismiss around Memorial Day. Week-long sessions of vacation Bible school were held right away to get ahead of T-ball and swimming lessons, all which help occupy children accustomed to classroom routines. Still, there are times when a parent hears a child lament, "There's nothing to do."
The Littlest Wrangler by J.R. Sanders (Moonlight Mesa Associates, 2010, 80 pages, illustrated, paperback, ISBN: 978-0977459384) may help head off a stampede among those ages 8-12 who are exhibiting signs of boredom. Based on "Little Joe, the Wrangler," a song written by Jack Thorp, in the late 1800s, the story follows young Joe Monday on his quest to become a real cowboy. An orphan living in New York City, Joe travels to Kansas City aboard an orphan train. The ensuing series of events takes him from living on a farm to being a wrangler to being a full-fledged cowboy.
I was anxious to see how Sanders converted the song to a book. (For those familiar with the song, the book has a happier ending.) It gives me pleasure to report he did it very well. Evidently I'm not the only one to feel this way. The book was a 2010 winner in the Arizona Authors' Literary Contest.
The Littlest Wrangler sells for $12.95 plus $2.95 postage. Order from J.R. Sanders, PO Box 615, Redlands, CA 92373; www.jrsanders.com. It is also available from online booksellers.
Little cowgirls ages eight and up, and their moms, will like Rebel in a Dress: Cowgirls by Sylvia Branzei, illustrated by Melissa Sweet (Running Press Kids, 2011, 96 pages, illustrated, paperback, ISBN: 978-0762436958). A companion to Rebel in a Dress: Adventures, the series is a winner on two fronts. Not only are the biographical stories and period factoids interesting, the graphic design is a feast for the eyes. Scrapbookers won't be able to resist thumbing through the pages embellished with vintage postcards, photographs, faux sticky notes, maps, advertisements, and colorful collages.
Rebel in a Dress: Cowgirls would be an excellent selection to read aloud on a road trip, with time to discuss how society has changed. Among the 12 women featured is Tillie Baldwin, who broke with convention of the early 1900s, daring to wear bloomers in the rodeo arena. Rounding out the dozen daring cowgirls are Georgie Sicking, Annie Oakley, Charley Parkhurst, Tad Lucas, Lucille Mulhall, Charmayne James, Lillian Riggs, Calamity Jane, Sally Skull, Johanna July, and Mary Fields.
Rebel in a Dress: Cowgirls retails for $10.95. It is available in bookstores and from online booksellers.
If music would be a better fit for your young ones, I highly recommend Cowboy Playground by Putumayo Kids. Released in May 2012, Cowboy Playground is one of 105 titles produced by Putumayo World Music. Established in 1993, the goal has been to introduce people to the music of the world's cultures. Cowboy Playground is a cheerful, dance-able 12-track compilation, accompanied by a beefy 24-page booklet with information about the artists and archival photos from the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, WY. (The visual appeal of the album package and booklet is exceptional.) Other titles that sound appealing include French Cafe, Rumba Mambo Cha Cha Cha, Music from the Coffee Lands, Latin Lounge, Acoustic Dreamland, Rhythm & Blues, Espana, and Turkish Groove.
Among the songs and artists selected to represent the cowboy culture are "Saddle Bum" by Wylie & The Wild West; "I'm an Old Cowhand" by Riders In The Sky; "Close 'Em on Up" by Kerry Grombacher; "Back in the Saddle Again" by Liz Masterson and the late Sean Blackburn; "It's the Cowboy Life for Me" by David John and the Comstock Cowboys, "May the Trail Rise Up to Greet You" by Dave Stamey; and "Take Me Back to the Range" by Peter Rowan and Don Edwards. The latter is from the High Lonesome Cowboy: Appalachia to Abilene album produced in 2002 by Western Jubilee Recording Company. A combo that goes by the name Cowboy Envy closes with "Happy Trails." I'd never heard of this group before, and I'm wondering why. Harmonizing on Western songs of the 1930s and 40s, they are excellent!
Cowboy Playground retails for $14.98 plus shipping. The album states the CDs are "available in thousands of children's, record, book, gift and other specialty stores," so look for them in your area. If you can't find them, visit www.putumayokids.com or call 1-888-788-8629.