A troubled inner-city boy learns to play polo in a program modeled after Philadelphia's famed Work to Ride.
Troy, 13, has been skipping school and “hanging out with knuckleheads” for nearly a year since his mom died. After getting caught in petty crime with his friend Foster, the boys are assigned to work at the stables in Fairmount Park. (It's implied that both are black, along with most if not all the other characters, but skin color is rarely explicitly assigned.) Troy feels drawn to the horses, especially a polo mare named Chance; after putting in time mucking stalls, he gradually begins to learn to ride and ultimately joins the barn's polo team. Troy, who lives with his father and grandmother, has to deal with both the complexities of his family life and the enduring enmity of some of the other boys—the knuckleheads he's outgrown. In her debut novel, Kendall does a good job capturing Troy's voice but falters a bit in her descriptions of the horses and, especially, what it's like to play polo. Her story is strong in setting and begins well, but the plot falters midway, the story progressing without much at stake until the melodramatic end. Still, it's good to read a horse story with an inner-city black protagonist at home in a black environment.
A worthwhile first outing; Kendall shows promise. (Fiction. 10-14)