A real-life, triumphant horse story worth telling to children, but this attempt falls a bit flat.

MY BLUE-RIBBON HORSE

THE TRUE STORY OF THE EIGHTY-DOLLAR CHAMPION

A picture-book adaptation of Letts’ nonfiction bestseller, The Eighty-Dollar Champion: Snowman, The Horse That Inspired a Nation (2012).

Snowman's story is well known: Saved from a slaughterhouse at the last minute when horse-riding instructor Harry de Leyer purchased him for $80, the gaunt, bedraggled horse didn't fit in at the school for girls where de Leyer taught. But after being sold to a boy living several miles away, the horse repeatedly jumped tall pasture fences to return to what he thought of as home. De Leyer bought him back and trained him; within two years, Snowman was a show-jumping champion. This picture book will be equally appealing to children and adults. Harren's action-packed illustrations, some based on iconic photographs of Snowman, serve it well. However, presumably in an effort to make the story more child-friendly, Letts moves the point of view from de Leyer to his daughter Harriet then back again to de Leyer, a narrative technique that feels clumsy. The book contains some factual inaccuracies: Snowman is described as “old”; the kill man, not de Leyer, brings the horse home to the farm; and de Leyer and his wife are shown as having three children (they had eight). De Leyer and his family are White, as are most background characters. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A real-life, triumphant horse story worth telling to children, but this attempt falls a bit flat. (Nonfiction picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: May 3, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-17385-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2022

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A nicely inventive little morality “tail” for newly independent readers.

THE INFAMOUS RATSOS

From the Infamous Ratsos series , Vol. 1

Two little rats decide to show the world how tough they are, with unpredictable results.

Louie and Ralphie Ratso want to be just like their single dad, Big Lou: tough! They know that “tough” means doing mean things to other animals, like stealing Chad Badgerton’s hat. Chad Badgerton is a big badger, so taking that hat from him proves that Louie and Ralphie are just as tough as they want to be. However, it turns out that Louie and Ralphie have just done a good deed instead of a bad one: Chad Badgerton had taken that hat from little Tiny Crawley, a mouse, so when Tiny reclaims it, they are celebrated for goodness rather than toughness. Sadly, every attempt Louie and Ralphie make at doing mean things somehow turns nice. What’s a little boy rat supposed to do to be tough? Plus, they worry about what their dad will say when he finds out how good they’ve been. But wait! Maybe their dad has some other ideas? LaReau keeps the action high and completely appropriate for readers embarking on chapter books. Each of the first six chapters features a new, failed attempt by Louie and Ralphie to be mean, and the final, seventh chapter resolves everything nicely. The humor springs from their foiled efforts and their reactions to their failures. Myers’ sprightly grayscale drawings capture action and characters and add humorous details, such as the Ratsos’ “unwelcome” mat.

A nicely inventive little morality “tail” for newly independent readers. (Fiction. 5-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-7636-7636-0

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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Readers who (inexplicably) find David Lawrence’s Pickle and Penguin (2004) just too weird may settle in more comfortably...

LOST AND FOUND

A lad finds a penguin on his doorstep and resolutely sets out to return it in this briefly told import. 

Eventually, he ends up rowing it all the way back to Antarctica, braving waves and storms, filling in the time by telling it stories. But then, feeling lonely after he drops his silent charge off, he belatedly realizes that it was probably lonely too, and turns back to find it. Seeing Jeffers’s small, distant figures in wide, simply brushed land- and sea-scapes, young viewers will probably cotton to the penguin’s feelings before the boy himself does—but all’s well that ends well, and the reunited companions are last seen adrift together in the wide blue sea. 

Readers who (inexplicably) find David Lawrence’s Pickle and Penguin (2004) just too weird may settle in more comfortably with this—slightly—less offbeat friendship tale. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-399-24503-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2005

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