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"The Gingerbread Cowboy" by Janet Squires: Summary and Companion Books

"The Gingerbread Cowboy" by Janet Squires and Holly Berry

"The Gingerbread Cowboy" by Janet Squires and Holly Berry

The Gingerbread Cowboy Story Summary

The Gingerbread Cowboy, by Janet Squires and Holly Berry, adds a clever Southwestern twist to the traditional fairy tale featuring a runaway gingerbread boy who comes magically to life only to run away from everyone whom he meets, because they all want to eat him! The gingerbread boy is clever and fast, and he outruns nearly everyone he encounters. Finally, the gingerbread boy is outfoxed by a fox who tricks him into climbing on his nose in order to cross a river. Once he is midstream and completely helpless, the gingerbread boy is eaten by the clever trickster, who throws his head back and swallows the gingerbread boy in one gulp. The tale is told with the pleasant repetition of other familiar fairy tales like Goldilocks and the Three Bears and The Three Billy Goats Gruff.

Squires' contemporary Southwestern rendition of the story is full of local color. The farmer and his wife become a biscuit-baking rancher and his wife who make breakfast every morning in their ten-gallon hats. Tired of making her delicious signature biscuits, the rancher's wife makes a gingerbread cowboy instead, complete with a belt buckle made of spun sugar. When the gingerbread cowboy jumps to life, he exclaims,

"Giddyup, giddyup as fast as you can, you can't catch me, I'm the gingerbread man."

The gingerbread cowboy gallops along at a frantic pace as he runs from familiar characters from the desert southwest, including a hungry roadrunner, prickly-pear-eating javelinas (pronounce hav-uh-leen-uhs), long-horned cattle, hungry wranglers who chase the gingerbread cowboy, and his final nemesis, a clever coyote. Squire's characters are entertaining and reflect the can-do attitude associated with southwest living. I particularly like the fact that the rancher's wife attempts to lasso the gingerbread cowboy back into her possession as he escapes away from the growing crowd with the coyote.

The coyote claims he doesn't want to eat the gingerbread cowboy but instead offers to help him cross the river, which is flowing at full capacity after a rainstorm. The coyote swims across the river that looks much like the Colorado River, surrounded by the high red sandstone cliffs near Moab, Utah, and other similar landscapes in Arizona and Texas. The gingerbread cowboy starts on the coyote's tail, then climbs to his back and, lulled by a feeling of false safety, ends up on the coyote's nose. The story ends in the traditional fashion, with the gingerbread cowboy making a tasty feast for the coyote. But on the last page, the coyote is depicted helping the rancher and his wife make a new cowboy from gingerbread and spun sugar!

"Giddyap, Giddyap, just as fast as you can, you can't catch me, I'm the Gingerbread Man!"

Why This Book Is a Must-Read

This story maintains the familiar elements of the gingerbread boy folktale/fairy tale while introducing a cast of delightful Southwest characters and local color. The depiction of a roadrunner abandoning his breakfast of lizard, and the group of javelinas munching on prickly pear cactus is true to life. Javelinas actually do eat cacti, and they travel nocturnally in small groups eating cactus and other succulent desert plants. Speaking of succulent desert plants, the desert plants depicted in this story include spiky agaves (pronounced ah-gah-veys) and a variety of cacti and other flora and fauna found locally in the desert.

The selection of the coyote as the trickster is an apt and clever twist and reflects the coyote's role in Native American folktales as a trickster character. It is an interesting choice in the Gingerbread Cowboy to have two tricksters! Both the gingerbread man and the coyote compete for this role in the story.

Coyote and the Laughing Butterflies by Harriett Peck Taylor

Coyote and the Laughing Butterflies by Harriett Peck Taylor

Cactus Hotel by Brenda Z. Guidberson and Megan Lloyd

Cactus Hotel by Brenda Z. Guidberson and Megan Lloyd

Working on a Southwest theme featuring native-American-inspired stories featuring the trickster coyote? The following two books can give some additional insight into the unique landscape depicted in the Gingerbread Cowboy story.

You may want to add Coyote and the Laughing Butterflies by Harriet Peck Taylor to your reading list. This beautifully illustrated picture book is a quest story with some butterflies who are out to trick a trickster! The watercolor illustrations in the story nicely capture the richness of life in the Sonoran Desert, with flowering barrel cacti and saguaro cactus with red rock formations in a hilly desert landscape.

Another favorite of mine is Cactus Hotel by Brenda Z. Guiberson, illustrated by Megan Lloyd. This fascinating book explores the amazing saguaro cactus and all of the animals that call it home. This is a great selection for exploring how the animals of the desert have adapted to a unique habitat in the Sonoran Desert.

The Gingerbread Boy by Paul Galdone is a traditional retelling of the gingerbread man folktale.

The Gingerbread Boy by Paul Galdone is a traditional retelling of the gingerbread man folktale.

The Gingerbread Baby by Jan Brett is illustrated with exquisite details.

The Gingerbread Baby by Jan Brett is illustrated with exquisite details.

Some excellent companion selections to The Gingerbread Cowboy include these gingerbread-themed stories and a few books featuring the Desert Southwest region of the United States (usually Arizona and New Mexico):

  • The Gingerbread Boy by Paul Galdone is a straightforward traditional telling the gingerbread boy fairy tale. The book's illustrations reflect the time of its publication (the 1970s).
  • The Gingerbread Baby by Jan Brett adds a Scandinavian twist to the gingerbread folktale, but the real hero of this book is a small boy named Matti who rescues the beloved gingerbread baby and builds him a house to live in. If you are unfamiliar with Jan Brett's trademark illustration style, her books are folksy, whimsical, and full of intricate details.

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© 2010 Carolyn Augustine


Dim Flaxenwick from Great Britain on September 26, 2010:

Never mind the kids. I want this book for me!!!!

Hello, hello, from London, UK on September 23, 2010:

A lovely story and thank you for the pleasure of reading it.

Carolyn Augustine (author) from Iowa on September 22, 2010:

What an interesting comment. Thank you for your vote up and good luck!

Pollyannalana from US on September 22, 2010:

Congrats being at the top, I voted you up although the book wouldn't interest me, although I write children's books, but many kids would like I am sure. Polly