Cowboy with a Camera

Donald Emmet Worcester, Author Amon Carter Museum $18.95 (48p) ISBN 978-0-88360-091-7
The concept behind this picture book is terrific, and western aficionados may well overlook some shortcomings in the execution. The eponymous cowboy, Erwin Smith (1886-1947), worked in his youth herding cattle across the vast, open ranges of the Southwest, and he often carried with him a camera to memorialize a rapidly changing way of life. Here, a selection of his photos documents the rugged daily life on the range and reveals the region's mostly barren terrain. Whether focusing on an obviously posed group of cowpunchers huddled around a campfire or on a bronc buster attempting to break a half-wild horse, Smith's sepia photos will redefine the concept of ""cowboy"" for kids who immediately think of gun-toting tough guys walking dusty streets in search of a shoot-out. But the text has problems. The folksy, first-person narration (""by"" Smith) rambles as Worcester (Western Horse Tales) describes the particulars of managing cows and handling horses, and makes some vague assertions (""At one time there were at least four thousand black cowboys in Texas, and I'm sure there were""). Irregularly shaped, watercolor wash ""frames"" detract from Smith's photographs and muddy the simulated-parchment pages. Ages 9-12. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 12/29/1997
Release date: 01/01/1998
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