Plodding Through the Pages: Review of Smoky the Cowhorse

When writing a review, even if I don’t particularly care for the book, I try to find something nice to say. So when the only thing that comes to mind (as someone who appreciates the fragrance of a book) is that it smelled good, well … yeah. It was that bad.


In my early piano lesson books there was often a tune with a western theme. While the right hand melody varied, the left hand played a distinctive cadence, a plodding ba-da, ba-da, ba-dum, that repeated throughout the song. That’s exactly the rhythm of 1927 Newbery winner Smoky the Cowhorse by Will James, for with all its familiarity, its plodding plot leaves little to get excited about. In fact, I blame this book as the reason I didn’t finish my reading goal on time.

Admittedly, most of my criticism is based on personal preference. I don’t care much for animal stories. I find it easier to get attached to human characters, with an exception for animals who exhibit human characteristics. So while the fact that James writes from the perspective of Smoky to tell the horse’s life story sounds like an interesting technique, it failed to captivate me. At the risk of sounding harsh, I didn’t care much what happened to Smoky as long as the book reached an end.

The next Newbery winner is also about an animal. I promise I try to keep an open mind, but I have to say, these early recipients aren’t living up to the Newbery standard I remember from my childhood.

One bucking bronco out of five for Smoky the Cowhorse.

This post is part of a series about my goal to read through the Newbery Medal books.


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