Cowboy Boy

Overview

Look out Richard M. Nixon Middle School -- there's a new superhero in your midst!

Ricky Smootz dreads starting middle school. He and his best friend, Fred Bologna, just KNOW they are targets for bully Keanu Dungston and his henchman. When Ricky turns to his beloved Grandma for advice, she reminds him his great, great, great, 3rd cousin was a cowboy whose specialty was running bullies out of Dodge. So when Keanu wedgies him on the first day of school, Ricky summons the courage of...

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Overview

Look out Richard M. Nixon Middle School -- there's a new superhero in your midst!

Ricky Smootz dreads starting middle school. He and his best friend, Fred Bologna, just KNOW they are targets for bully Keanu Dungston and his henchman. When Ricky turns to his beloved Grandma for advice, she reminds him his great, great, great, 3rd cousin was a cowboy whose specialty was running bullies out of Dodge. So when Keanu wedgies him on the first day of school, Ricky summons the courage of his ancestor, finds an old Halloween costume, and becomes . . . Cowboy Boy!

Ricky Smootz is very afraid of everything, especially Keanu Dungston, the bully who terrorizes their middle school, but with advice from his grandmother Ricky transforms himself into Cowboy Boy and stands up to Keanu and his henchmen.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
School Library Journal
(November 1, 2003; 0-439-41681-7)

Gr 3-6-Cartoonist Proimos addresses the fear of bullies with his usual unique panache. Super-short chapters describe Ricky V. ("Very Afraid") Smootz's return to his hometown when his dad gets a business transfer. The boy's dread of facing sixth grade is exacerbated by the presence of "perennial eighth grader" Keanu Dungston, wedgie lord over the new kids in middle school. A lot of the text is trademark goofy and the vignettes are truly weird, but the feeling of life-and-death trauma of dealing with an apparently all-powerful nemesis is pretty accurate. Grandma's suggestion for confronting the gang doesn't quite ring true, but fearful readers will at least experience vicarious triumph over evil even if blackmail doesn't happen to be one of their options. Proimos's kid-appealing, highly distorted portraits, in black and white, perfectly match the hyperbolic text and convey timidity, stupidity, grandmaternity, and even beauty (a wanna-be girlfriend). Teachers can follow up with a couple of higher-end short stories from Tim Wynne-Jones, such as "The Clark Beans Man" and "Hard Sell" from The Book of Changes (Orchard, 1995) to give their charges some creative possibilities for dealing with these schoolyard miscreants.-John Sigwald, Unger Memorial Library, Plainview, TX Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

Booklist
(September 1, 2003; 0-439-41681-7)

Gr. 3-6. Faced with a middle-school bully famous for giving superwedgies to smaller folks like him, Ricky Smootz transforms himself into the unstoppable Cowboy Boy. This transformation, regaled in swift, hilarious, and high-falutin' patter as well as cartoon art filled with movement, requires some physical discomfort, faked sick time, an understanding grandmother, and an oblivious best friend. Proimos' self-important adults are blind to Ricky's problems, which allows Cowboy Boy to shine in all his goofy glory. Proimos, the author of the Loudness of Sam (1999), has a firm grasp of preadolescent male emotions and provides Ricky with just the right means for resolving his issues. This is just as dotty as Dav Pilkey's Captain Underpants books, but it confronts serious kid issues seriously, doing so with admirable panache. --Francisca Goldsmith Copyright 2003 Booklist

Publishers Weekly
(July 7, 2003; 0-439-41681-7)

Proimos uses a format similar to his Johnny Mutton, He's So Him (the trim size of a beginning reader but with themes more appropriate to slightly older readers) and proposes that a timid greenhorn can triumph in middle school, in this case by assuming the cool persona of Cowboy Boy. Ricky V. Smootz-who jokes that "the V stands for Very Afraid"-starts sixth grade in abject fear of an older, stubble-haired bully named Keanu Dungston. Keanu's primary instrument of terror is "not just your regular standard wedgie. He lifts your underwear out the back and up over your head." Ricky receives one of these "superwedgies" the moment he sets foot in the comically named Richard M. Nixon Middle School, and he knows that he and Keanu are fixing for a showdown. When he calls his grandmother for advice, she mentions "Crazy Enzio," a loopy cowboy character who carries "loaves of Italian bread" in his holsters. In an unlikely twist, Ricky successfully models himself on Crazy Enzio, wearing a ten-gallon hat, vest and boots on the bus; he speaks with a twang and, most effectively, disarms the tough kids by cracking scatological jokes. "I had come up with a breakthrough theory," Ricky says. "[Bullies] found humor having to do with biological functions completely irresistible." While shouting non sequiturs like "Big Poopy Diapers!," as Ricky does, won't smooth every social encounter, Proimos uses this unserious tale to dispense helpful tips. The plot is convoluted, and the author resorts to the easiest humor (a "Baby-Wet-My-P

Publishers Weekly
Proimos uses a format similar to his Johnny Mutton, He's So Him (the trim size of a beginning reader but with themes more appropriate to slightly older readers) and proposes that a timid greenhorn can triumph in middle school, in this case by assuming the cool persona of Cowboy Boy. Ricky V. Smootz-who jokes that "the V stands for Very Afraid"-starts sixth grade in abject fear of an older, stubble-haired bully named Keanu Dungston. Keanu's primary instrument of terror is "not just your regular standard wedgie. He lifts your underwear out the back and up over your head." Ricky receives one of these "superwedgies" the moment he sets foot in the comically named Richard M. Nixon Middle School, and he knows that he and Keanu are fixing for a showdown. When he calls his grandmother for advice, she mentions "Crazy Enzio," a loopy cowboy character who carries "loaves of Italian bread" in his holsters. In an unlikely twist, Ricky successfully models himself on Crazy Enzio, wearing a ten-gallon hat, vest and boots on the bus; he speaks with a twang and, most effectively, disarms the tough kids by cracking scatological jokes. "I had come up with a breakthrough theory," Ricky says. "[Bullies] found humor having to do with biological functions completely irresistible." While shouting non sequiturs like "Big Poopy Diapers!," as Ricky does, won't smooth every social encounter, Proimos uses this unserious tale to dispense helpful tips. The plot is convoluted, and the author resorts to the easiest humor (a "Baby-Wet-My-Pants" doll figures in the climax), but the hero reaches out to those shaking in their boots about middle school. Ages 8-12. (July) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
Ricky V. Smootz's middle initial stands for Very Afraid. In the long list of things he is afraid of, bullies appear at least three times. Unfortunately, starting sixth grade in a new school brings him face to face with the biggest, meanest bully yet-Keanu Dungston. Fred Bologna can offer his friend warnings but no protection from this fear-smelling ogre. So, Ricky becomes Keanu's newest target, not only for the superwedgie but also for scapegoating. With help from his Grandma and her Crazy Enzio stories (about a distant relative of the Wild West), Ricky gains the courage to challenge Keanu. In his big hat, boots, and all, Ricky transforms into Cowboy Boy and single-handedly knocks the bully to his senses. But not in the expected way, for this is a tall tale from beginning to end where the actions of parents, teachers, students, and cowboys are exaggerated to bring out the underlying truth. The story's humor also turns on things that particularly bemuse this age group, such as bodily functions or, in an unusual twist, two cockroaches. Roaches Annie and Jimmy are characters in the plot and the book dedicated to them, as well. The cartoon-like illustrations are in keeping with the juvenile humor. The result is an entertaining and encouraging story for middle school kids who must deal with all kinds of frightening things. 2003, Scholastic Press, Ages 10 to 12.
— Carol Raker Collins, Ph.D.
School Library Journal
Gr 3-6-Cartoonist Proimos addresses the fear of bullies with his usual unique panache. Super-short chapters describe Ricky V. ("Very Afraid") Smootz's return to his hometown when his dad gets a business transfer. The boy's dread of facing sixth grade is exacerbated by the presence of "perennial eighth grader" Keanu Dungston, wedgie lord over the new kids in middle school. A lot of the text is trademark goofy and the vignettes are truly weird, but the feeling of life-and-death trauma of dealing with an apparently all-powerful nemesis is pretty accurate. Grandma's suggestion for confronting the gang doesn't quite ring true, but fearful readers will at least experience vicarious triumph over evil even if blackmail doesn't happen to be one of their options. Proimos's kid-appealing, highly distorted portraits, in black and white, perfectly match the hyperbolic text and convey timidity, stupidity, grandmaternity, and even beauty (a wanna-be girlfriend). Teachers can follow up with a couple of higher-end short stories from Tim Wynne-Jones, such as "The Clark Beans Man" and "Hard Sell" from The Book of Changes (Orchard, 1995) to give their charges some creative possibilities for dealing with these schoolyard miscreants.-John Sigwald, Unger Memorial Library, Plainview, TX Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Tackling the ever-popular Bully Problem, Proimos sends a freshly minted sixth-grader up against not only an eighth-grader of whom even the Principal's wary, but the tough clique sitting at the back of the school bus to boot. Hardly has Ricky V. (for "Very Afraid") Smootz set foot on the grounds of Richard M. Nixon Middle School than he's endowed with a super wedgie by infamous, left-back-seven-times Keanu Dungston. Inspired by Grandma's tales of how his rootin' tootin' ancestor Crazy Enzio used brains rather than brawn to overcome adversity, Smootz changes outfits and persona, to become superhero Cowboy Boy. After winning over the bus crowd with a barrage of gastrointestinal jokes, he brings Dungston to his knees, not with force, but by brandishing a devastating photo of the punk as a toddler. Tucking plenty of cartoony drawings of characters with radical 'dos and severe overbites into his easy-reading text, the author dishes up a daffy, painless lesson, and leaves his young buckaroo poised for further exploits. (Fiction. 10-12)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780439416818
  • Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 6/4/2003
  • Pages: 96
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Lexile: 640L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 6.38 (w) x 9.28 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

JAMES PROIMOS is the author and illustrator of Joe's Wish, The Loudness of Sam, and The Many Adventures of Johnny Mutton. He is also the designer and co-creator of Taco Bell's popular animated spokespets Nacho and Dog, and is the co-creator of "Generation O", an animated show from Sunbow Entertainment/SONY wonder. He lives in Baltimore, Maryland.

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