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*The Gingerbread Cowboy* by Janet Squires, illustrated by Holly Berry
The Gingerbread Cowboy
by Janet Squires, illustrated by Holly Berry
Ages 3-6 32 pages Laura Geringer Books August 2006 Hardcover    

That tasty little gingerbread man who’s always on the run has now been made into a gingerbread cowboy! With a large cowboy hat perched on his head, a spun-sugar belt around his waist, and cowboy boots on his feet, he’s ready to run from the inhabitants of the Wild West. With a chant appropriate to a Western setting - “Giddyup, giddyup as fast as you can…” - the Gingerbread Cowboy escapes everyone pursuing him. Unfortunately, his bragging awakens a napping coyote. Being smart and hungry is not a good combination in a coyote for a freshly baked and iced cookie!

Always a dreamer from the moment he’s out of the oven, this gingerbread cookie, too, thinks he can escape everyone with his running skills - and he does. Starting with the rancher and his wife, the Gingerbread Cowboy escapes the confines of the ranch and heads into desert territory. A horned lizard, a roadrunner and a band of javelinas are taunted by the Gingerbread Cowboy’s chant. Hungry cattle and cowboys even race across the cactus-studded sands, to no avail.

However practical it may have seemed at the time, the cookie cowboy should never have accepted an escape ride across the river from coyote. With his still-hungry pursuers gathered around the river, they watch as the Gingerbread Cowboy escapes a last attempt at capture - a lasso coming toward his body. But he cannot escape the coyote’s “flapjack” toss into the air. Although the Gingerbread Cowboy’s fate is the same as all delicious looking cookies when hunger strikes a cookie lover, the end will make you smile.

Holly Berry, the award-winning illustrator of numerous children’s books including Market Day and The Impudent Rooster has brought the Western theme to view. She dresses the rancher and his wife in country attire. The rancher’s wife bakes in her floor-sweeping dress with a kerchief around her neck and a cowboy hat on her head. The rancher eats breakfast with his gloves on, and he, too, sports a cowboy hat on his head even first thing in the morning.

In creating the kitchen, she brings a little of the rancher’s outdoor life in. Furnishings include cactus, artwork of farm animals, and a woodpile to feed the old black woodburning stove in the kitchen. Outside the kitchen window, it’s brownish-red canyons of sand and rock for miles with spots of green from cactus and grasses.

The Gingerbread Cowboy is the author’s first book. She works part-time as a library media specialist. Coming from a family of ranchers herself, she has fun making this story feel Western. She uses a rope to start her story; the letter O in the word "Once" is a curled-up lariat. Following the characters in the book, children will find out how a rancher starts the day. With the sunrise, horses are saddled and cattle are fed. Breakfast might include homemade biscuits with butter, jam or honey.

Children will discover the animals that inhabit this countryside and what they normally eat. Still, all the animals are very quick to give up their normal diet of ants, lizards, and cactus pads for a taste of gingerbread! With phrases like “rodeo-romping” and “flick of a cow pony’s tail,” and the rancher’s cry of “Whoa” when the gingerbread cowboy escapes, audiences will be immersed in this Wild West countryside.

Fans of the running cookie will not be disappointed in this rendition of the classic folktale. The Gingerbread Cowboy will be a long-standing favorite with children.

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  Tanya Boudreau/2006 for curled up with a good kid's book  

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