cover image Bronco Busters

Bronco Busters

Alison Herzig, Alison Crogin Herzig. Putnam Publishing Group, $15.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-399-22917-6

By day, a trio of low-down bronco busters (""Slim was rough, Jim was tough, and Grimsley was bowlegged"") try every dirty trick in the book to tame a wild pony, without success. By night, a small young cowboy creeps into the corral and takes a different tack, talking softly, gently caring for and feeding the small horse--and even playing the harmonica for him. In the end, the three tough cowpokes give up (""he's a real outlaw"") and mosey off into the sunset in their souped-up monster truck (complete with horseshoe-studded tires), leaving behind the boy and the pony who, thanks to the child's light touch, is now tame as a kitten. Herzig's (Sam and the Moon Queen) tidily packaged tale is larded with humor and colorful descriptions (""spikey spurs as big as pinwheels""), and she deftly etches the contrast between the two bronco-busting styles in language that by turn swaggers across the pages and settles into more tranquil tones for the nighttime training sessions. Root's (Junk Pile!) drawings are equally adroit; snapshots of the bronco-busting business in a dusty Wild West palette fairly burst out of their oval frames, and her mean cowpokes, who look like they'd be equally at home on horses or Harley Davidsons, are hilarious. A rootin'-tootin' good ride from start to finish. Ages 4-8. (Sept.)