Tabitha Fink and the Cowboy Code
by Rick Felty
Genre: Children’s Picture Book
Print Length: 98 pages
Reviewed by Jaylynn Korrell
A one-eyed cat makes a huge impact on the lives of others, simply by being kind.
In his latest installment of the Tabitha Fink series, Rick Felty takes Tabitha on an experience through the wild wild west. The message behind the story, conjured up by Felty’s lighthearted sing-song writing style, will make children both glad to meet Tabitha & excited to dive into whatever she gets up to next.
In a little western town, Tabitha Fink takes on the role of sheriff. There, with her deputy Bartholomew Blink, they keep order in a community that is known for their kindness to others. Each person there plays a special part in the town and helps each other out through their profession. The blacksmith, barber, and school teacher are just a few characters who have a special role in this story.
When a lone outlaw comes strolling into town, they don’t know what to think. This stranger is unlike them, boasting his unfriendliness and his contentment on staying that way. It doesn’t take long for Tabitha Fink to offer her assistance, and after a few days of receiving help from the friendly people in the community, it seems this outlaw might just change his tune.
Felty takes us through a range of emotions in Tabitha Fink and the Cowboy Code. This book succeeds in its message of being kind to others and illustrating the ripple effects it can have on all of us.The residents of the town offer their services to the outlaw willingly, teaching him new skills and assisting him with tasks he couldn’t complete on his own. With each act of service the outlaw’s new friends perform, the chip on his shoulder starts to disappear. I love how it showcases the benefits of being part of a community and how much better it feels to not be mean.
I also like how the book takes its time in arriving at the outlaw’s transformation. He becomes a little more open each time he makes a new friend, and that openness to change lightens his disposition noticeably. At just under 100 pages, I questioned if a children’s book should be so long, but by the time I finished, I felt reassured that the story worked well at its page count.
As the outlaw experiences these changes, his physical appearance also changes, which is wonderfully illustrated. Each page is illustrated with bright-eyed smiling characters, a big contrast to Ornery the Outlaw’s angry appearance. Over time, he loses his scruffy unkept look, begins to smile more, and just becomes an overall friendlier presence. He begins to match the faces of the other friendly townspeople (and animals) who come in all shapes, colors, and sizes.
With the help of Tabitha Fink, Ornery the Outlaw not only becomes more open to being kind himself, he becomes remorseful of the way he’s treated his friends in the past. Creating positive relationships in this little western town shows him that he’s capable of being loved and accepting it, which gives him the idea that maybe his future isn’t set in stone and he can still right some of this wrongs. Felty does an excellent job of not rushing the process and showing that people don’t change right away.
There are many lessons to be learned in this book, and Felty’s patient approach will allow children to get well-acquainted with Tabitha, a truly interesting and inspiring cat character.
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