cover image Black Cowboy, Wild Horses

Black Cowboy, Wild Horses

Julius Lester. Dial Books, $19.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-8037-1787-9

A spirit of freedom pervades the pages of this picture book, accompanied by the sound of thundering hooves and the feel of the heat and dust of the plains. Based on an incident in the life of Texas cowboy Bob Lemmons, the tale centers on his success in corralling a herd of wild mustangs with only the aid of his horse. Possessed of a legendary tracking ability, Lemmons, a former slave, follows the drove day and night, infiltrating the herd astride his black steed, Warrior. In a dramatic climax, he defeats the mustang stallion for possession of the herd. Lester and Pinkney, who previously collaborated on John Henry and Sam and the Tigers, reunite in an impressive display of teamwork, transporting readers, through the alchemy of visual and verbal imagery, to the heart of the action. The resulting sense of immediacy offers a vivid taste of the cowboy life, whether it's hunkering down all night during a sluicing rain or riding under the wide-open skies. Lester studs his seamless prose with powerful descriptions, such as when a hawk is ""suspended on cold threads of unseen winds,"" or the mustangs sweep toward the corral as ""a dark surge of flesh flashing across the plains like black lightning."" The fluid brushwork of Pinkney's watercolors seem tailor-made for the flow of muscle, mane and tail of wild mustangs galloping across the prairie. Notable for the light it sheds on a fascinating slice of Americana, this book is essential for anyone interested in the Wild West. Ages 5-up. (May)