reading: Smoky the Cow Horse (1926)

Now that Little Girl is advanced enough to read chapter books (I know!), I spend some time looking at the “Juvenile” section in the library and pick up one now and then for myself. I spotted the “Newbery award” tag on the spine of this book,

but the book was so old no title was etched on the spine. I checked it out on the basis of the award, and when I looked at it at home I recognized the line-drawings right away,

and flipping to the cover page, saw the book was written by Will James. (Remember I reviewed his The Three Mustangers a couple years ago?)

A good book makes you both happy and sad when it’s over. And makes you want to start over re-reading it right away. How many books take you like that? Not many. Not one out of hundreds. This was one of those books. I’ve never been able to get behind the Black Beauty book, even though it’s hands-down the most famous horse book. But I totally loved Smoky the Cow Horse. Just-folks grammar and all, I see why it won the Newbery award in 1926.


I’m going to have to start searching out Will James books now. I’m glad our library still has this copy, and I hope kids stop and check it out. Are kids put off by a book that looks “old?” I bet they are. A foxed, musty smelling book must be filled with old-fashioned ideas. The library staff culls books every year to make room for the many new books added to the shelves. They must look at the check-out record of every book, and if a book hasn’t reached a certain level. . . out it goes. It occurred to me it might be a certain kind of kindness to check out these old favorite books, even if you don’t intend to read it, just to assure the books stays on a shelf for another year by adding to its “hits.” Maybe the one kid who needs to read it will find it, just like you did a long time ago. Try and remember the books that changed your life, and then go check it out a couple times a year. Or else it might be culled and replaced by a book a whole lot less important.

Wouldn’t it be fun to have a flash mob checking out important old books? Heck, go ahead and re-read and try and remember why that special book changed your thinking, or introduced you to new ideas and places.

Smoky the Cow Horse is one of those books that deserves to stick around.

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