Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Good Horse by Jane Smiley

Abby Lovitt lives with her mother and father on a ranch in California during the 1960s. Abby's father buys horses, which they then train and sell. Abby knows she can't get attached to the horses because they aren't really hers. There is one horse, Jack, who she does think of as hers. Jack is still just a baby, and his mother died. Abby has been raising him and training him and loves him. Then Abby's father gets a letter from a rancher in Texas. Several of their horses were stolen, and they think Jack's mother might have been one of them. If she was, then will Abby have to give Jack up?

I had a period in elementary or middle school when I read a lot of horse books. I wasn't actually that interested in horses, but my next-door-neighbor and best friend LOVED horses and she rode and was totally obsessed, so I tried to keep her company. I just wasn't that interested, however.

This was a nice book, well written (I should hope, it's Jane Smiley!), but a horse book like many other horse book. So it had lots and lots of detail about the horses themselves, and all the jumps Abby was doing, and the saddles and bridles and the horse shows and caring for the horses and so on. I did a bit of skimming when we started to go into detail every time Abby did a new jumping course (I know "jumping course" is not the proper term). I know some kids who would love that kind of thing though.

While the plot that carried all the way through was about Jack and if Abby was going to get to keep him or not, the book was really just about Abby's everyday life. Caring for the horses, friends at school, her very religious family, riding Black George and than having to say goodbye. A lot of different things happened over the course of the book.

The back of the book tells me that A Good Horse "features characters from The Georges and the Jewels," so I guess there was another book about this family. That made sense, because there were a couple instances when passing references were made to characters that hadn't been introduced but it seem liked I was supposed to know about, in particular, someone named Danny. Abby briefly wonders what Danny is doing now, and then we don't actually see or figure out who he is until almost the end of the book where he has one scene and then goes away. It turns out Danny is Abby's brother who no longer lives with the family because he didn't like how religious his father was. I assume this probably happened in the first book, and as the conflict wasn't resolved in anyway, maybe there will be another book that looks at that? It was kind of left hanging. Aside from that though this book stands by itself.

It was a nice book, and as I've said before, nice books are just as important as books that deal with serious issues. We have a million horse books in our library, as the children, especially the middle school kids, love them. This would be a lovely addition.

A Good Horse came out on October 26th.

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