March-April 2020

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Page 87 of 95

86  M A R C H /A P R I L 2 0 2 0 | U N TAC K E D English was," Thompson-Hernández writes, "and Mayisha believed that the ranch would be able to attract more donors and resources. She never imagined it would deter kids from joining. She never imagined the result would be a life-or-death situation for some of her riders." Her nephew, Randy, seeks a return to western riding, "fulfilling his dream of getting back to the roots of black cowboy culture." This tension continues throughout the book, begging the question: How do the cowboys remain true to themselves and to their tradition? Thompson-Hernández pays careful, detailed attention to the black cowboys of Compton. At the same time, he identifies themes and feelings that will be familiar to all horse-loving readers. —ELIZA MCGRAW BOOK REVIEWS A rtist Charlie Mackesy's illustrations, with their handwritten messages, first attracted attention on social media for their wholesome simplicity, depicting the relationship between a little boy and his friends: a horse, a mole and a fox. His book "The Boy, The Mole, The Fox And The Horse" was released last year, with Barnes & Noble naming it the 2019 Book Of The Year in December. Bound like pages in a personal journal, the book opens with Mackesy inviting you to make it used and worn, to give it "well-thumbed" pages and doodles in the corners. Mackesy includes his own coffee-stained pages and dog-trampled drawings, showing pieces of his everyday life. "The Boy, The Mole, The Fox And The Horse" By Charlie Mackesy I n 2018, The New York Times reporter Walter Thompson- Hernández wrote a story about the Compton Cowboys, a group of African American riders in Los Angeles. The Cowboys preserve and continue the American legacy of black cowboys, and they do it in Compton, on a small ranch in a place made famous by gang violence. "The Compton Cowboys" is the book that grew out of that article, the sort that left readers needing more of the story. In 1988, Mayisha Akbar founded the Compton Jr. Posse. The idea behind the group was to give local young people somewhere to hang out besides the streets, and it has morphed into today's Compton Cowboys. The Cowboys occupy a physical place—a small ranch in Richland Farms, a neighborhood within the city limits—and a social and athletic one. Members ride the local streets, compete and manage the care of their horses. Primary people featured in the book include Akbar, who grapples with changing the ranch's focus from western to English riding. "Western-style riding wasn't as lucrative as "The Compton Cowboys" By Walter Thompson-Hernández The book unites all ages with simple but poignant exchanges between the four friends. All of them are different. The mole loves cake, providing several moments of comic relief. The fox is quiet, learning to trust after painful memories. The horse is large but wise and gentle, like a grandfather. Paired with the boy's curious mind, their conversations spark questions about identity, belonging and kindness. The drawings dominate the pages. Mackesy doesn't present just the finished product in his illustrations; he demonstrates the evolution, with his brush moving here and there. He finds beauty in mistakes, like his dog stepping on wet ink, and eventual calmness in the intersecting, layered lines that slowly form a character. There's no real beginning or end to this book; the reader can, and is asked to, jump right in. Start in the middle or on the last page. It is a book to leave on your coffee table and pick up to remind yourself of the goodness you and others can offer. —LAURA LEMON

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