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“Then why worry about what other people think?” Grandpa Eddy asked. –Cowgirl Grit
by Jake Maddox
Sydney Todachine wasn’t expecting to spend the summer at her grandpa’s ranch on a Navajo reservation. But when her parents go on a research trip, Sydney has to leave San Diego and go to the Navajo reservation. When she gets to her grandpa’s place, she is even more upset that her cousin Hadley is also staying at the ranch because he has always been mean to her. Without any of her friends, Sydney is prepared for a terrible summer.
But then Sydney bonds with a beautiful horse named Midnight. She doesn’t want to embarrass herself, so she rides the horse in the middle of the night. Sydney thinks she can never be as good of a rider as the experienced cowboys and cowgirls. How can Sydney find the courage to saddle up and compete in the upcoming rodeo?
Readers will relate to Sydney, who is having a difficult time adjusting to being at her grandfather’s. Even though she loves riding, Sydney doesn’t want anyone to see her riding Midnight because she is afraid others will make fun of her skills. In addition to that worry, Sydney is upset because Hadley teases her for dressing like a city girl. Hadley’s teasing makes Sydney want to avoid him at all costs, but how can she avoid her cousin while they are living together?
Readers will relate to Sydney’s insecurities and her desire to fit in. Cowgirl Grit focuses on Sydney and her fears, but it also introduces readers to the rodeo. While the characters are undeveloped and the story conclusion is unrealistic, Sydney grows and becomes more confident over the course of the story. She also learns to get along with her cousin and make new friends.
Sydney and her family are Navajo and the story takes place on a Navajo reservation, but the Navajo culture is never introduced. The story misses the opportunity to share cultural knowledge. While the story has diverse characters, the characters are one-dimensional and generic.
Horse lovers will enjoy the story and the cute black and white illustrations that appear every 4 to 7 pages. The story has a simple plot, easy vocabulary, and realistic conflicts. The ten short chapters and full-page illustrations make Cowgirl Grit a quick read. For those who would like to use Cowgirl Grit as a learning opportunity, the end of the book has a word glossary, discussion questions, writing prompts, and a glossary of rodeo events. Readers who want more horse stories should add the Big Apple Barn Series by Kristin Earhart to their reading list.
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