Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978

A Good Horse

A Good Horse

Fall 2010 Fiction
Ages: 11 & Up
Author: Jane Smiley
ISBN: 978037586229
Hardcover Price: $16.99

Jane Smiley is a great novelist, and her lifelong passion for horses is well known. She taps this interest to make a new young adult offering with her follow-up to The Georges and the Jewels.

It is the 1960s, and eighth-grader Abby Lovitt lives on a small California ranch with her horse-trader father. Abby's daily routine will be completely foreign to most contemporary readers -- chores, supper, homework, more chores. It's a strict and simple life, and yet an enviable one.

In addition to helping care for the horses on her family's ranch, Abby shows and competes with them. Abby struggles to not become attached to the animals. Her father's job is to find good horses, train them, and then sell them for profit. Only one horse, Jack, the colt, is all hers. That is, until a letter arrives in the mail that suggests Jack may have been stolen. What follows is a good mystery with many twists and turns.

Smiley's knowledge of horses shines in this story, and it's displayed in a backstage look at the world of horse shows and competitions. The author also successfully portrays the small challenges Abby's Christian family encounters while preserving their faith. Abby's friends, for instance, don't spend all Sunday in church, and she finds their families are more liberal in many areas than hers.

Abby is a strong but humble, and very likeable heroine who struggles with the same things other 8th-grade girls do - strict parents, homework, and finding her social niche at school. The story details are colorful and the characters - horses and humans both - are richly drawn. And although it is a sequel, A Good Horse reads just as well alone.

Teresa DiFalco   ©2010 Parents' Choice
Teresa DiFalco is an award-winning ghostwriter, writer, and mother in Vancouver, Washington. She's been a contributing editor for Parents' Choice for over ten years. She's a strong speller, a menace at badminton, and makes a decent soufflé.

Look for this product at:
Random House Children's Books/Knopf

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