Cowboy Charlie {Five in a Row Volume 4}

We are thrilled to be rowing Five in a Row Volume 4.  I can’t believe we’ve been using and loving Five in a Row for over 4 years now, time flies!
Cowboy Charlie is a historical fiction picture book by Jeanette Winter.  It is the true story of Charles Marion Russell, who was an artist and sculptor in the “Wild, Wild West”.
Some of the additional resources we used:

Here’s what we studied for Cowboy Charlie:

  • Geography – the USA, Missouri, Montana, the Wild West
  • Social Studies – Pioneers and Settlers, types of homes
  • Social Studies – travel in the Wild Wes and travel for Settlers
  • Social Studies – Methods of Communication in the West (we focused on the Pony Express)
  • Language Arts – Biographies, Story Telling, Creativity, Poetry (Acrostic)
  • Art: Paintings of Charles Marion
  • Art: Painting on a different surface (wood)
  • Art: Modelling figures out of clay
  • Art: Color in Illustration
  • Cooking: pancakes and cornbread!
  • Science: Mountain Habitats
  • Music:  Old West songs, Home on the Range

History in Art and Picture Study 

The Art of Charles Marion – we found several of Cowboy Charlie’s famous paintings of the American Old West and spent time using them for picture study.  These three I’ve added below were among our favourites.  The book speaks of how he would paint exactly what he saw, so these paintings give us a powerful glimpse into life in the Wild West in the 1800s.

The Wild West, Railroads, and Frontier Towns

We read several books introducing these topics with the children.  We’ve been reading through the Little House on the Prairie series with them over the past year as well, which really tied in nicely with Cowboy Charlie.
We also chose to focus on The Pony Express which speaks clearly of the railroads and how they would only travel ‘so far West’.  After that, the adventurous explorers would press onward into uncharted territory!  
We had a blast creating a Wild West play area with our train sets and various Playmobil sets!  

Our tracks went all through the kitchen (the “East”) towards the hallway and ended in the Living Room (the “Wild West”).  Where the tracks ended, we set up a make-shift Frontier Town out of cardboard and lots of Playmobil. 

Art in Cowboy Charlie


We made our own ‘Western World’ like Charlie.  We used self-drying clay instead of beeswax, but, it was the same fun result.

Painting on a different surface:

Historically, Charles Marion was known for painting on anything he could find – animal skins, wood, rocks, you name it!  We decided to paint on old recycled wood since the rocks were frozen over.

Colours in Illustrations:

Jeanette Winter is a very unique illustrator.  I personally really enjoy her art.  We also loved her illustrations in “Follow the Drinking Gourd” another Five in a Row book.    I encouraged the children to try their best to mimic the colours used in this illustraion in a creative way.


Top left: About the Pony Express, Bottom: What is important in Story Telling?

What did Charlie see as he travelled West?

Maps showing Missouri, Montana, the Rockies, Great Lakes, and the black line shows one of the Pony Express routes.

Language Arts – writing sentences to show comprehension.

Including younger children – this is Alex’s map (age 6)

Transportation in the Wild West.

Copy work from the book.

Adapting for Alex.

Our COWBOY Acrostic Poem.

We celebrated with some good Ol’ Fashioned Griddle Cakes!

Thanks for reading!

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