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Saving Baby

HOW ONE WOMAN'S LOVE FOR A RACEHORSE LED TO HER REDEMPTION

A touching narrative that transcends its subject matter.

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In horse lover and activist Normile’s memoir (co-authored with seasoned writer Lindner), she fights for the humane treatment of ex-racehorses.

Compelled by the idea of owning a thoroughbred, Normile acquires “Baby” from an ailing breeder, with the stipulation that she races him. Driven by a competitive spirit rather than financial gain, her main priority is ensuring her new horse’s well-being. Normile becomes indoctrinated in the early 1990s subculture of Detroit horse racing—and the corner-cutting and corruption that lurk in the unregulated sport. Her tender love for Baby compares to a mother’s love for her child who’s all the more vulnerable due to his inability to express himself. Baby shows promise as a winner, but due to a series of unsavory experiences, he never reaches his potential. He eventually meets a tragic, untimely end resulting from negligence on the track. This heart-wrenching loss launches Normile into a fight to protect other horses from the same fate. She’s motivated further when she learns some dark truths behind the industry, like the legal practice that has retired racehorses being slaughtered and sold for meat. Ultimately, she helms a nonprofit rescue that matches retired thoroughbreds with new owners. Like many tireless and committed activists, she sacrifices her family relationships and personal well-being for her cause. With the help of Lindner’s first class storytelling, action and emotion equally drive this compelling tale that will bring on the waterworks for any animal lover. The horses Normile loves are portrayed as dynamically as human beings, with imagined dialogue Normile gleans from their body language. Early in the book, she describes Baby’s departure from his mother and siblings: “There were cries and whinnies from the other horses as the trailers left. ‘Where are you going? We thought you were home to stay,’ ” the others horses are imagined saying. “Baby himself didn’t appear to be nervous. ‘I’ll be back,’ he whinnied confidently. ‘Just gone for a bit—have to make my mark.’ ”

A touching narrative that transcends its subject matter.

Pub Date: April 16, 2013

ISBN: 978-0988878006

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Powder Point Publishing

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2013

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JUPITER STORM

In more ways than one, a tale about young creatures testing their wings; a moving, entertaining winner.

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A fifth-grade New Orleans girl discovers a mysterious chrysalis containing an unexpected creature in this middle-grade novel.

Jacquelyn Marie Johnson, called Jackie, is a 10-year-old African-American girl, the second oldest and the only girl of six siblings. She’s responsible, smart, and enjoys being in charge; she likes “paper dolls and long division and imagining things she had never seen.” Normally, Jackie has no trouble obeying her strict but loving parents. But when her potted snapdragon acquires a peculiar egg or maybe a chrysalis (she dubs it a chrysalegg), Jackie’s strong desire to protect it runs up against her mother’s rule against plants in the house. Jackie doesn’t exactly mean to lie, but she tells her mother she needs to keep the snapdragon in her room for a science project and gets permission. Jackie draws the chrysalegg daily, waiting for something to happen as it gets larger. When the amazing creature inside breaks free, Jackie is more determined than ever to protect it, but this leads her further into secrets and lies. The results when her parents find out are painful, and resolving the problem will take courage, honesty, and trust. Dumas (Jaden Toussaint, the Greatest: Episode 5, 2017, etc.) presents a very likable character in Jackie. At 10, she’s young enough to enjoy playing with paper dolls but has a maturity that even older kids can lack. She’s resourceful, as when she wants to measure a red spot on the chrysalegg; lacking calipers, she fashions one from her hairpin. Jackie’s inward struggle about what to obey—her dearest wishes or the parents she loves—is one many readers will understand. The book complicates this question by making Jackie’s parents, especially her mother, strict (as one might expect to keep order in a large family) but undeniably loving and protective as well—it’s not just a question of outwitting clueless adults. Jackie’s feelings about the creature (tender and responsible but also more than a little obsessive) are similarly shaded rather than black-and-white. The ending suggests that an intriguing sequel is to come.

In more ways than one, a tale about young creatures testing their wings; a moving, entertaining winner.

Pub Date: Nov. 11, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-943169-32-0

Page Count: 212

Publisher: Plum Street Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 22, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018

BROTHERS IN ARMS

BLUFORD HIGH SERIES #9

A YA novel that treats its subject and its readers with respect while delivering an engaging story.

In the ninth book in the Bluford young-adult series, a young Latino man walks away from violence—but at great personal cost.

In a large Southern California city, 16-year-old Martin Luna hangs out on the fringes of gang life. He’s disaffected, fatherless and increasingly drawn into the orbit of the older, rougher Frankie. When a stray bullet kills Martin’s adored 8-year-old brother, Huero, Martin seems to be heading into a life of crime. But Martin’s mother, determined not to lose another son, moves him to another neighborhood—the fictional town of Bluford, where he attends the racially diverse Bluford High. At his new school, the still-grieving Martin quickly makes enemies and gets into trouble. But he also makes friends with a kind English teacher and catches the eye of Vicky, a smart, pretty and outgoing Bluford student. Martin’s first-person narration supplies much of the book’s power. His dialogue is plain, but realistic and believable, and the authors wisely avoid the temptation to lard his speech with dated and potentially embarrassing slang. The author draws a vivid and affecting picture of Martin’s pain and confusion, bringing a tight-lipped teenager to life. In fact, Martin’s character is so well drawn that when he realizes the truth about his friend Frankie, readers won’t feel as if they are watching an after-school special, but as though they are observing the natural progression of Martin’s personal growth. This short novel appears to be aimed at urban teens who don’t often see their neighborhoods portrayed in young-adult fiction, but its sophisticated characters and affecting story will likely have much wider appeal.

A YA novel that treats its subject and its readers with respect while delivering an engaging story.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2004

ISBN: 978-1591940173

Page Count: 152

Publisher: Townsend Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2013

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