Pecos Bill, perhaps the most famous mythical cowboy in American history, was the creation of Edward O’Reilly, when he worked as a writer for Century Magazine in 1917. Pecos Bill was not just your average cowboy, rather he was superhero who rode cyclones, roped entire herds of cattle all at once and shot the stars out of the sky.
Pecos Bill Invents the Ten Gallon Hat ($16.99, Pelican Publishing, Ages 5-8) by Kevin Strauss is a most entertaining western-style folktale for young readers. Pecos Bill is a cowboy with a handle bar mustache and great strength and abilities. But he has a problem, and he needs to find a resolution. Fast. Bill is tired of being hot from the burning sun, but he’s got cowboy sorts of things to do and must be outdoors driving cattle for hours on end. He’s disappointed when he discovers that moving a tree for shade, wearing a baseball cap, donning a fireman’s hat and even lassoing a storm cloud with a rattlesnake rope are all imperfect solutions to his problem. But one day, something happens to give Pecos Bill an idea to make him the ultimate cowboy hat that not only gives him enough shade, but also offers some extra benefits that make life easier.
What I love about Pecos Bill Invents the Ten Gallon Hat is that the story is clever and humorous, and it features a very likeable cowboy superhero. If you think about it, there are not all that many Western books for the youngest readers. Even though the story is lighthearted and funny, it is the perfect way for children to be introduced to the notion that necessity breeds invention. Most inventions evolve over time, after a lot of mishaps and duds, just like Pecos Bill discovers. But with patience, brain power and hard work, things have a way of working out.
The cartoon-like illustrations by artist David Harrington are bold and ultra colorful. They really add pizzazz to the superhero nature of the story, and I thoroughly enjoyed looking at all the details of each picture.
In addition to being entertained, I was pleased to learn that everything a cowboy wears suits a purpose – even a bandana, which protects the cowboy’s face from dirt that’s kicked up by the cows.
-Reviewed by Debbie Glade