In his time, the Bird Key-based artist Mifflin Lowe has been many things. As a humor writer for adults, copies of books such as I Hate Fun sold hundreds of thousands of copies, translated into languages such as Italian. As the owner of a jingle company, he made catchy songs for businesses like TJ Maxx. And as a musician, he’s made CDs full of whimsical songs for parents and their children to play and sing together. Recently, Lowe has returned to the world of children’s books, working with Bosnian illustrator and Ringling College alum Martina Crepulja, including a new adventure completed just in time for Black History Month, Cowboy Howie: The Adventure of the Central Park Coyote and the Thanksgiving Day Parade. Living in New York City with his black mother and white father, young Howie just wants to be a cowboy. Through his imagination, the world around him transforms, the towering buildings of the avenue becoming the walls of the Grand Canyon and the fur-clad commuters fearsome grizzly bears. But this imaginative escape is challenged by his peers, who bully young Howie and pressure him to drop his dreams and join their gang. Who ever heard of a black cowboy anyway? Truth be told, the Wild West was full of cowboys and many of them not white, says Lowe. Native Americans, Hispanics and, yes, black Americans all lived as cowboys and the dream and heritage are open to all. But Cowboy Howie also addresses more modern issues for Lowe’s young audiences. He recalls telling the story to children at a predominantly black elementary school up in Rhode Island. At one point, he asked the young audience what Howie should do, join the gang or stay true to his cowboy ways. Two said that he should be a cowboy, the rest said that Howie didn’t have a choice and had to join the gang. It made the hair on Lowe’s neck stand up. “To me, that’s why it’s important to keep pursuing this,” says Lowe. “To let these kids know there’s an option in life.”

Cowboy Howie comes on the heels of past collaborations with Crepulja, including Wilton Wilberry and the Magical Christmas Wishing Well and Little Dog, Big Bark, Big Dog, Little Bark.