Awards & Accolades

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Awards & Accolades

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
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An outstanding debut novel for young people by retired amateur steeplechase jockey Hambleton, who uses her knowledge of horses and the equestrian world to tell of the tragedies and triumphs that befall a thoroughbred racehorse—from the horse’s point of view.

Reminiscent of Anna Sewell’s 19th-century classic, Black Beauty, in its deeply felt narrative as voiced by a thoroughbred racehorse, this first-time novel for ages 11 and up is written with empathy and a vivid sense of drama by Hambleton, a lifelong equestrian and former amateur steeplechase jockey. Raja, a promising foal of distinguished lineage, bears the “Mark of the Chieftain” on his forehead. Bedouin legend has it that such a mark predicts either “great glory” or “great despair” for a horse, and Raja assumes that his road to glory is assured after triumphs on the track as a 2-year-old lead to early Kentucky Derby buzz. But the world of racing has a dark side. An injury, sparked by Raja’s fear of thunderstorms, drops the sensitive horse into obscurity and worse. What follows is a colorful succession of owners and riders (good and bad), a brush with horse drugging and the ugly reality of “kill buyers,” who purchase former racehorses for their meat. Friends and enemies, both human and equine, appear and reappear in Raja’s life as fate takes him far from his pampered youth. Along the way, the elegant horse learns dressage, Cossack trick riding, the exhilarating art of steeplechase—and the depth of his own courage. Hambleton’s compelling prose—deftly interwoven with technical realities and the emotional investment inherent in horse training, racing, care and ridership—is accompanied by a glossary of horse-world terms and evocative pencil drawings by Margaret Kauffman, a professional sculptor and horsewoman. Lifelong equestrian Hambleton makes an impressive outing as a first-time author of juvenile fiction, weaving her knowledge and love of horses, horsemanship and the world of competitive racing into a moving narrative that will keep fellow horse-loving readers of any age enthralled.


Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0615540290

Page Count: 261

Publisher: Old Bow

Review Posted Online: Jan. 9, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2012



The tables are turned and the big bad wolf from traditional fairy tales is cast as a mild-mannered, aspiring cook in this hilarious topsy-turvy tale from Fearnley. Determined to assuage his yearning for pancakes, the gastronomically-challenged Mr. Wolf sets out to make a stack himself. However, the would-be chef discovers a staggering amount of hurdles that must be overcome before he can enjoy his repast: reading the recipe, making a list, purchasing the ingredients. Like the little red hen, Mr. Wolf requests help from his neighbors along the way, and these characters—Chicken Little, Wee Willy Winkle, Gingerbread Man, and others—have shed their more benign personalities to reveal themselves as a rude, scurrilous bunch. Mr. Wolf retains his poise with each rebuff and ends up doing the work alone; when the pushy neighbors barge into his kitchen to share the food, Mr. Wolf enjoys—in true fairy-tale fashion—far more than pancakes for his meal. Fearnley’s light tone keeps the abrupt demise of the ill-mannered bunch from being morbid, and the switch in Mr. Wolf’s demeanor, from polite to hungry, is more funny than frightful. The brightly hued illustrations conjure up an imaginary land that tickles the funnybone, where “Little Jack’s Plum Pies” can be purchased from “Simple Simon’s Pie & Cake Emporium.” Wryly funny and childlike. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2000

ISBN: 1-888444-76-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2000


From McDonald (Tundra Mouse, 1997, etc.), a haunting, dramatic glimpse of the Bone Keeper, a trickster with special transformational powers. Some say Bone Woman is a ghost; some envision her with three heads that view past, present, and future simultaneously. Most, however, call her the “Skeleton Maker” or “Keeper of Bones.” Chanting, shaking, moaning, and wailing, the Bone Keeper is frenzied as she sorts bones; not until the end of the book are readers told, in murmuring lines of free verse, what the Bone Keeper is creating in her mysterious desert cave. Out of the darkness, a wolf springs to life, leaps from the cave, howling, a symbol of resurrection and proof of life’s cyclical nature. Also keeping readers guessing as to the Bone Keeper’s final creation are Karas’s paintings; they, too, require that the final piece of the puzzle be placed before all are understood. The coloring and textures embody the desert setting in the evening, showing the fearsome cave and sandy shadows that wait to release the mystery of the bones. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: March 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-7894-2559-9

Page Count: 30

Publisher: DK Publishing

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1999

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