HORSE THIEF by Robert Newton Peck


Age Range: 12 & up
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“It was the horses that held my heart. . . . It was worship.” Tullis Yoder loves horses. A lowly member of the Big Bubb Stampede, a ragged horse show in 1939 Chickalookie, Florida, Tullis is enamored with the life and characters of the almost-rodeo. The chief brag and comic symbol of the show is Big Bubb Nilbut, America’s Biggest Cowboy, weighing in at 500 pounds and riding a Clydesdale horse. When the boss, Mr. Judah St. Jude, gives Tullis a chance to live out his dream and be a bulltopper—trying to go eight seconds atop a bad bull named Gutbuster—Tullis falls a few seconds short and loses half of his right hand. When Big Bubb takes a thunderous tumble off of Clyde and breaks his neck, the show disbands, and Tullis’s beloved horses are destined to be “trucked to a slaughtery, hit in the head by a sledgehammer, and minced into pet meal.” Obviously, Tullis cannot let this be, and the rest of the story becomes a romp, with larger-than-life characters and slapstick action as the 13 horses are rescued and taken on a pilgrimage to safety. Tullis’s scenes are told in first person, the others in third, and the transitions are at times jarring. The best scenes are of Tullis and his attempts at bulltopping glory. Peck’s prose is lively and lavish, with a gift for the humorous image: “The sheriff felt the political image slowly melt off his face and run down his shirtfront. Like spilled supper.” A nobody at the beginning of the story, Tullis is, by the end, a hero, and readers will enjoy following his madcap route to glory. (Fiction. 12+)

Pub Date: June 1st, 2002
ISBN: 0-06-623791-2
Page count: 192pp
Publisher: HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 2002


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