A well-crafted middle-grade horse novel.


A Horse Named Dog

Oliver’s (Write Now!, 2016, etc.) middle-grade novel tells the story of a boy’s relationship with an unusual horse.

Sam isn’t a great fan of horses despite growing up on a farm as the son of two respected horse trainers. They specialize in breaking racehorses. Trumpeter, his father’s old racehorse, is one of their testier animals, and Sam’s mother, Sasha, tells him that they’re about to acquire another named Dogs of War. “He has some…quirks,” she explains. “His owner is hoping that I can ‘teach him some manners.’ ” In a riding accident, Trumpeter shatters Sasha’s leg. Sam struggles to get her to safety before the old racehorse can do more damage. With his mother bedridden, 12-year-old Sam must help his father continue operations at the farm, including training Dogs of War. Sam feels an immediate grudge toward the equine, who is the offspring of Trumpeter, but he is drawn to Dog’s strange, unhorselike behavior: lolling his tongue from the side of his mouth, wagging his tail, crouching on his front legs like his canine namesake. Despite his initial inhibitions, Sam quickly bonds with Dog, closely enough that Sam begins to wonder if there’s a way that the horse could help him win money to help the struggling farm. Sam’s father used to win races on Trumpeter for purses. Couldn’t Sam do the same thing on Dog? Oliver writes in a clear, swiftly flowing prose. She manages to construct her animal characters so that they feel just as round and real as their human counterparts. The reader gets a good sense of the size and potential destructiveness of the horses, and Sam’s struggles around them are thus cast in greater relief. While the plot sometimes leans toward the predictable, young readers will likely find much to enjoy as Sam and Dog challenge one another to grow into better, more mature versions of themselves.

A well-crafted middle-grade horse novel.

Pub Date: Oct. 17, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-692-55909-3

Page Count: 298

Publisher: Write More Publications

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2016

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Like the quiet lap of waves on the sand, the alternating introspections of two Bahamian island children in 1492. Morning Girl and her brother Star Boy are very different: she loves the hush of pre-dawn while he revels in night skies, noise, wind. In many ways they are antagonists, each too young and subjective to understand the other's perspective—in contrast to their mother's appreciation for her brother. In the course of these taut chapters concerning such pivotal events as their mother's losing a child, the arrival of a hurricane, or Star Boy's earning the right to his adult name, they grow closer. In the last, Morning Girl greets— with cordial innocence—a boat full of visitors, unaware that her beautifully balanced and textured life is about to be catalogued as ``very poor in everything,'' her island conquered by Europeans. This paradise is so intensely and believably imagined that the epilogue, quoted from Columbus's diary, sickens with its ominous significance. Subtly, Dorris draws parallels between the timeless chafings of sibs set on changing each other's temperaments and the intrusions of states questing new territory. Saddening, compelling—a novel to be cherished for its compassion and humanity. (Fiction. 8+)

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 1992

ISBN: 1-56282-284-5

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1992

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An engaging mix of gentle behavior modeling and inventive story ideas that may well provide just the push needed to get some...


With a little help from his audience, a young storyteller gets over a solid case of writer’s block in this engaging debut.

Despite the (sometimes creatively spelled) examples produced by all his classmates and the teacher’s assertion that “Stories are everywhere!” Ralph can’t get past putting his name at the top of his paper. One day, lying under the desk in despair, he remembers finding an inchworm in the park. That’s all he has, though, until his classmates’ questions—“Did it feel squishy?” “Did your mom let you keep it?” “Did you name it?”—open the floodgates for a rousing yarn featuring an interloping toddler, a broad comic turn and a dramatic rescue. Hanlon illustrates the episode with childlike scenes done in transparent colors, featuring friendly-looking children with big smiles and widely spaced button eyes. The narrative text is printed in standard type, but the children’s dialogue is rendered in hand-lettered printing within speech balloons. The episode is enhanced with a page of elementary writing tips and the tantalizing titles of his many subsequent stories (“When I Ate Too Much Spaghetti,” “The Scariest Hamster,” “When the Librarian Yelled Really Loud at Me,” etc.) on the back endpapers.

An engaging mix of gentle behavior modeling and inventive story ideas that may well provide just the push needed to get some budding young writers off and running. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2012

ISBN: 978-0761461807

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Amazon Children's Publishing

Review Posted Online: Aug. 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

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