Wednesday, April 29, 2009


Patsey Gray, il. Sam Savitt
1959, Coward-McCann

Eleven-year-old Ellie Sayre is living the horse-mad child's dream, travelling the West Coast with her trainer grandfather riding horses in shows. Her favorite horse is Challenger, an equitation horse who she and her grandfather have patiently retrained from an abused creature to a happy and successful h/j competitor. Grandpa's newest client is the pretty and dramatic Pamela Morton, who has talent and a beautiful mare, Night Flight, but lacks drive and has a slightly sketchy work ethic that clashes immediately with Grandpa's strictness. She and Ellie compete in the junior Medal classes, accumulating points toward the big national class held in New York each year.

Gray's ability to write the reader into the book - her heroines are all horse-crazy, exulting even in the most mundane or awful of horse-related tasks - is at its height here. Exacting details of caring for the horses, of riding, of coaching, of showing, are horse madness at its very finest.

In common with most of Gray's books, all the action and youthful spirit is feminine, but the older generation is mostly male. Grandpa, the vet, Pam's cousin, the judge - all men, and all varying degrees of obnoxious to the girls who are doing 99% of the work. Mrs. Sampson, a woman who inexplicably has a thing for Grandpa despite being younger and less horse-crazy, is a bit of a joke, and Pam's cousin treats his wife with a condescending tolerance that makes me want to bite the page out of the book.

While some of my favorite Savitt drawings are of his standing horses, his forte was making realistic, powerful drawings of horses in the extreme positions of jumping, falling, spooking, etc.
Here, he takes full advantage of a dramatic plot to do some of his best.

Challenger - chestnut gelding with 4 white stockings and a diamond
Night Flight - black mare

Other Books
Jumping Jack
Double Standards
Heads Up!
Galloping Gold
Horse In Her Heart
Doggone Roan
Loco The Bronc
4-H Horse
Diving Horse
The Horse Trap
Show Ring Rogue
The Mysterious Buckskin
Star Bright
Star Lost

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