cover image Cowboy Ned & Andy

Cowboy Ned & Andy

David Ezra Stein, . . S&S/Wiseman, $14.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-1-4169-0041-2

Man's best friend doesn't necessarily have to be of the pooch persuasion—at least, according to this tale of a man and his dapple-gray steed. Stein's straightforward story traces a journey that ends right where it began. At the start, the text sounds almost like Hemingway in its realistic, simplistic language ("They rose before dawn and woke the cows. The day grew hot.... At noon they drank from a cool river"). Ink-and-watercolor illustrations mirror the desert landscape, spare in detail. The story takes on more energy (and a fictional direction) when Andy the horse sets out to find a birthday cake for Cowboy Ned's special day. The animal encounters a cast of critters, each of whom reveals his or her own strength yet is not able to assist him. From the cricket alone with his song, to the owl quietly observing all, the creatures reinforce the desert's stillness. Only when Andy meets a banjo-playing cowboy, "as old as the hills," is he reminded of something he knew all along: "The best thing to have on your birthday is a friend to share it with." This quietly uplifting tale will remind readers, too, that oftentimes one need not travel far to find what one is looking for. Ages 3-6. (July)