Southwest Children's Literature

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Bubba, The Cowboy Prince: A Fractured Texas Tale

Book Review:

At first blush one might not associate Cinderella and cow pies but Helen Ketteman's tale is a truly fractured version of the classic Cinderella fairy tale. Bubba, the Cinderella in this variant, lives on an isolated West Texas ranch with his evil stepdaddy and nasty stepbrothers, Milton and Dwayne. Bubba does the work of three cowhands, sweating and stinky from sunup to sundown.

When Mis Lurleen, a wealthy bachelorette living in a large ranch nearby Bubba's, announces she's inviting everyone to a dance for the sole purpose of finding herself a cowboy mate to work with her on her ranch and keep her company, cowboys from near and far prepare to win her hand. Hopeful as anyone, Milton, Dwayne and the evil Stepdaddy clean up, dress up and head out to the dance, leaving Bubba behind, forlorn and forgotten.

To dull the pain he rides out on the open range to look at the cattle, paying no mind to a rapidly approaching thunderstorm. Zapped by lightning, flung off his horse, he comes face to face with his fairy Godcow. After a swish of her magical tale, Bubba is instantaneously decked out in polished boots, crisply creased blue jeans, beautiful colored shirt, a gargantuan Stetson hat, and a cow turned gallant white steed.

Bubba arrives at the dance but has to wait until almost midnight before getting his long-anticipated dance with Mis Lurleen. As they began two-stepping around the dance floor and as he begins winning Mis Lurleen's heart, the clock chimes midnight and Bubba's clothes revert to smelly rags and his ride into a cow. Embarrassed, he runs away shedding a boot in his haste. Mis Lurleen latches on to the boot and uses it to track down Bubba the next day. They decide to marry and live happily together for a good, long while.

The illustrations in the book jive perfectly with the comic mood and the West Texas setting. With armadillos, lizards, cowboy attire and ranching implements all around the story is a vocabulary-rich addition to the Cinderella canon. The depiction of the fairy Godcow adds additional off-the-wall humor to the story's zany ambiance.

Bubba's story provides rich fodder for those wanting to compare and contrast story elements common to fairy tales. Students can begin to see the liberty one can take with story elements. They begin to appreciate how they might twist, bend or even fracture the conventional story line when providing a different setting, culture, customs and/or historical period in which to imagine and create a new tale.

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