A racehorse biography for middle graders.
In 2015, American Pharoah became the first horse since Affirmed, in 1978, to win the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness, and the Belmont Stakes—thoroughbred racing's Triple Crown. Mickle draws on published accounts and personal interviews to weave together the lives of Pharoah, owner Ahmed Zayat, jockey Victor Espinoza, and trainer Bob Baffert into one narrative, culminating in Pharoah's stellar season. Her writing is at times florid, even repetitive, and tries to find more drama in the story than is actually there (will Pharoah race with ear plugs again?), but she clearly understands horses and conveys Pharoah's personality well. Black-and-white photographs bound into the center lack resolution but do provide some visuals. The backmatter is a strange mixed bag. There is a list of placings in the 2015 Belmont Stakes (but not the Derby or the Preakness), letters written to Pharoah from fans, and a glossary that includes both the terms “instincts” and “foal heat”—but does not define “estrous.” (Appropriately for a book about a racehorse, there’s a fair amount of clinical discussion of racehorse reproduction; other terms readers will encounter include “cover,” “dam,” and variations on “stud.”)
Quibbles aside, Pharoah is himself an inspiration, and most horse-loving children will hang on every word.(Nonfiction. 10-14)