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Hi Ho Silver!

In this graphic novel, we learn to never come between a woman and her horse. Never.

Hi Ho Silver!

BOOK REPORT for Grand Theft Horse by Greg Neri, illustrated by Corban Wilkin

Cover Story: A Horse (Of Course)
Drinking Buddy: Beer For My Horses
Testosterone Estrogen Level: Even Cowgirls Get the Blues
Talky Talk: Horse With No Name
Bonus Factor: The Racing Circuit
Bromance Status: Stewball

Cover Story: A Horse (Of Course)

Gail, the trainer, riding Urgent Envoy. A good taste of what's inside the novel. Nice minimalistic scene, I think too much would have overwhelmed everything. On the other hand, it's a little misleading. Most of the book is about legal wrangling, rather than the actual theft itself. The internal illustrations are very well done, giving a nice sense of realism to the real-life people.

The Deal:

Gail Ruffo (author Greg Neri's cousin) loved, cared for, and trained horses all her life. Around sixty, Gail meets Urgent Envoy, a thoroughbred horse too rough and independent to be broken (you see where this is going, right?). With the help of some wealthy backers, Gail trains the beautiful animal. She's certain she can turn him into a champion, and without the use of whips, steroids, or other cruel methods. Just when she's seeing some progress, Bud Clayton, the owner, insists that Urgent Envoy is ready to run. Despite her misgivings, she takes him to the races, where he finishes last. The owners decide her methods are not working out and insist the horse be pushed harder. And if he's injured, then the vet can just inject him with something. And if he should break a leg? Well, these things happen. When Gail protests, they confiscate the horse. So she confiscates it right back, right out of their stables, and then hides him. The owners are not happy, but are unable to pursue criminal charges, as she owns a stake in the horse. So they do everything they can to ruin her: civil suits, revoking her training license, banning her from the racing circuit. Just how much is she willing to give up for an animal?

Drinking Buddy: Beer For My Horses

Yeah, Gail is kind of a badass. An army brat, she's traveled the world, speaks a handful of languages, and has quite a way with horses. When she's reduced to living in a storage room, robbed of her license and branded as a criminal, she could just walk away from the horse and get her life back. But nonetheless, she persisted. I'd sure as hell have a drink with her.

Testosterone Estrogen Level: Even Cowgirls Get the Blues

An older woman with no money, little education, no connections, no powerful friends, standing up against the law, the establishment, and the march of time. It would be so easy for her just throw in the towel and start over with another horse. Instead, she keeps it up. No matter how certain defeat seems, she knows she's right. And it's nice to read a true story like that once in a while.

Talky Talk: Horse With No Name

To be honest, this book was dry in parts. Less riding off into the sunset and more discussion about ownership laws, statutes of limitations, and California racing laws. But Gail speaks for the little guy. How many of us have ever been bullied by someone just because they were more powerful than us, be they a school bully or a boss? Gail, despite losing everything, still refuses to hand over the horse. And I think that's kind of a message that we need right now.

Bonus Factor: The Racing Circuit

Ironically, horse racing is not a sport for horse lovers. The animals are investments. The owners spent money, and they are expected to pay off. The horses will work to the max, even if they have to run injured. Or drugged. You know, because they're injured. And sadly, if a horse breaks a leg, then there's only one thing to be done. Urgent Envoy's backers don't love him. They don't really expect him to be profitable. They just don't like Gail ripping them off. Even when she tries to buy out their share in the horse, they refuse. That's why Gail is a unusual: she's a horse trainer who actually loves the horses.

Bromance Status: Stewball

Like old Stewball the racehorse, I wish this book were mine. Also like Stewball, I drink a lot.

Literary Matchmaking:

  

• For another horse book by Greg Neri, read Ghetto Cowboy.

My Chemical Mountain, by Corina Vacco, another David v. Goliath story.

• Another girl power/getaway on horseback book, try Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee.

FTC full disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher, but no beer. There's never any beer.

 

Brian Katcher's photo About the Author: Brian Katcher wrote his first YA novel when he was down and out in Mexico. He now lives in Missouri with his wonderful wife and daughter. He divides his time between writing and working as a school librarian. Brian still misses the preachy YA books of the eighties.