Reviews of Prairie Dog Cowboy

Review by Jena' Galifany

 Prairie Dog Cowboy by V. Gilbert Zabel

Time passes so quickly and history is rewritten all the time. So much of our heritage is lost with those changes.  It is refreshing to see a slice of reality portraying the daily life of 1899 and 1900 Oklahoma in V. Gilbert Zabel's latest literary work Prairie Dog Cowboy.

Buddy Roberts is but a small boy at the start of the story. It isn’t clear right away why his mother is set against the child. Although he has an older brother, he's tending to the cattle at the age of five, all alone with only his dog to keep him company. Buddy is a mindful child, doing what needs to be done, even at such a young age, hoping some day to grow up to be a cowboy. Instead of him and Patch doing the work on foot, he dreams of herding cattle on horseback someday.

Neighbor rancher Caleb Hyman is impressed with Buddy.  He wonders, too, why the child works hard while his older brother, Jake, is doted on and spoiled. But, Caleb can see the man that Buddy will become, encourages him, and teaches him to rope. Once Buddy can rope a prairie dog, Caleb promises he'll give the boy a job on his ranch.  Not an easy thing to do, but Buddy works hard to reach his appointed goal. 

Through the years, Buddy becomes a part of Caleb's family, a friend of Caleb's twin sons, and the unknowing object of affection for their younger sister, Katie. Life begins to take a turn for the better as he approaches manhood. 

Prairie Dog Cowboy is a testament of a time when life was hard, but people weren't afraid of hard work.  The day-to-day occurrences represented are an accurate telling of the time, history that should not be lost. Teens and young adults can learn much from this story and I, for one, am thankful that Ms. Zabel has documented this slice of American history.

Reviewed by Jena' Galifany
Author, Editor, Reviewer

Review by Harry E. Gilleland, Jr.

Prairie Dog Cowboy by V. Gilbert Zabel is targeted for readers aged 9 to 12, but many adults will enjoy this book as well. I know I did. The story is well told by the author and illustrated beautifully by Jordan M. Vinyard. The book tells the story of a boy, Buddy Roberts, growing up in the harsh environment of Oklahoma in the early 1900s. Buddy has a mother who, for some reason he cannot understand, dotes upon his older brother while mistreating him. No matter how hard he tries, Buddy simply cannot win her love.Fortunately for Buddy, Calem Hyman, a neighboring rancher, takes a liking to him and aids him whenever he can. Buddy wants to grow up to be a cowboy, and Calem promises him a job cowboying on his ranch if he masters the necessary skills. To learn roping, Buddy tries lassoing prairie dogs, hence the nickname given to him by his older brother's mean friends of being a prairie dog cowboy. The story follows Buddy through childhood into his late teens as he grows into a cowboy and a good man who finds a new, loving family.

The book is filled with entertaining action, such as roping, herding cows, breaking in wild horses, winter blizzards, coyote attacks, and learning how to deal with harshness in life. Along the way, Buddy (and the reader) learns much about enduring unfairness gracefully, working hard, honesty, meeting your obligations, and about love and family. The story held my interest as the reader becomes emotionally invested in Buddy and pulls for him to succeed. Zabel has done an admirable job of creating characters and situations that reflected life in 1900s Oklahoma realistically.

In summary, Prairie Dog Cowboy is a great book to buy for, and to recommend to, young adult (YA) readers. Not only will they be highly entertained reading about life as a cowboy, but they will gain valuable insight into how to deal with various life issues involving bullying, mistreatment, love, family, and what's important in life. I highly recommend this book!