In the Days of the Vaqueros

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9780547133652: In the Days of the Vaqueros

*“Freedman sets the record straight.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review

Vaqueros, from vaca, the Spanish word for cow, were Native Americans conscripted by wealthy Spaniards to herd cattle on the Mexican plains. Often barefoot and wearing whatever clothes they had, the vaqueros became spectacular riders and masters of the art of cow herding. Three hundred years later, they taught the settlers to the American West how to round up cattle, bring down a steer, and break a wild bronco. Cowboys picked up their clothing, saddles, and lingo from the vaqueros. But it is the cowboy whose fabled reputation we remember, while the vaquero has all but disappeared from history.

*“Freedman tells the story with depth, clarity, and a vigor that conveys the thrilling excitement of the work and the macho swagger of the culture.”—Booklist, starred review

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About the Author:

Russell Freedman received the Newbery Medal for LINCOLN: A PHOTOBIOGRAPHY. He is also the recipient of three Newbery Honors, the Sibert Medal, and the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award, and was selected to give the 2006 May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture. Mr. Freedman lives in New York City.

From School Library Journal:

Gr 4-8-Freedman explores the often-overlooked role of the Central American cowherders who preceded by centuries the cowboys of popular lore and legend. With clear and engaging prose, he describes how the 1494 arrival of cattle and horses in Hispaniola led to a need for skilled and rugged horsemen able to control the eventually vast herds. While tracing the geographic spread of the vaqueros' work over time and the tasks and tools involved in the trade, he also weaves in some thought-provoking social history. Freedman notes that the vaquero lacked status in his own culture, and "remained for hundreds of years a poorly paid laborer." North American cowboys, who flourished for a far shorter time, as well as much later, enjoy the romanticized image that has never applied to vaqueros. The author characterizes the typical vaquero, rather than using individual examples, discussing the pride, skill, and courage required to succeed at the work. Each of the seven chapters begins with a full-page color reproduction of a painting, and other full-color and black-and-white paintings are generously included on virtually every spread, most from the 19th century. Period photographs also add visual impact. Martin Sandler's Vaqueros: America's First Cowboys (Holt, 2001) covers similar ground. Freedman's book has a slightly more attractive layout, but both are excellent resources on a topic that was previously difficult to research at a child's level.

Steven Engelfried, Beaverton City Library, OR

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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