The Blind Colt by Glen Rounds

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Title: The Blind Colt by Glen Rounds

Premise:

A blind colt is born to a mare who is part of a herd of Mustangs in the American West.  Whitey, a young boy, and his uncle Torwal own a nearby ranch, and watch over the animals within their domain.  Uncle Torwal is in favor of shooting the colt, but Whitey pleads for his life.  He would love to own a horse like that someday.  Against all odds, the little colt survives the winter but gets lost and separated from his band.  He finds his way to the ranch’s other horses, and Whitey finally gets his chance to prove that his faith in the blind colt’s abilities has not been misplaced.

My thoughts:

I’ve had this book since I was a kid and I remember being enamored of it back then.  Though I never had a horse, I dreamt of getting one and even wrote a story in first grade about a horse that was mine (in reality it belonged to my cousins).  So yeah, horses have always fascinated me.  Interestingly, this book is based on a true story!

It’s a bit short for a chapter book, so a child could read it in a day or two.  There really isn’t much to the story.  A blind colt is born and survives in the American West with his mother and the rest of the Mustangs.  However, one day he slips down a ravine and can’t get back to the other horses.  In his wanderings, he finds his way to the ranch’s work horses and sticks with them until he is discovered by Whitey, the boy who kept him from being shot in the first place.  Whitey then gentles the colt and Uncle Torwal says he can keep him.  That’s it!

The writing itself is quality and I think that’s what makes the story enjoyable.  There is a lot of description about the wilderness and the discoveries that the colt makes while he tries to get by in the big, mysterious world.  He faces some perils along the way, such as a rattlesnake, mudhole, blizzard, etc., but with his heightened senses of hearing and smell, and the help of his mother, this tough little guy makes it through.

I recommend The Blind Colt to kids who are just beginning to read chapter books or as a cute family read-aloud.  It would particularly appeal to horse lovers!

Rating: 4 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

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Ugly by Robert Hoge

Ugly

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Title: Ugly by Robert Hoge

Premise:

Robert was born with some major birth defects (a growth in the middle of his face and deformed legs) because of a medication his mother took while he was in utero.  His life is a tale of resilience and the quest to fit in in a world that too often judges people based on appearance.  Though the cards are stacked against him, Robert comes of age as a well-adjusted young adult, demonstrating to all that a person’s looks don’t define who they are as a person.

My thoughts:

Thank you to smile rac for recommending this book!

Wow–what a refreshing and well-timed book!  There is so much talk nowadays about acceptance and mainstreaming children with special needs, but that was not the case back when Robert was a child.  It was even a fight for him to be accepted into his own home!

Robert’s memoir is poignant and entertaining at the same time.  His wry humor helps take the edge off of some very painful experiences and helps the reader to identify with the human behind the hurt.  The narrative is detailed enough to keep the attention of older readers, but simple enough that it’s still accessible to a younger audience.  I appreciate that Robert left out offensive language, etc. which would have been questionable for the younger crowd.

The surgery which doctors performed on Robert’s face took place during the early days of craniofacial surgery.  Truly he underwent a groundbreaking surgery which helped pave the way for so many after him.  I thought that was pretty interesting, though I don’t know that he feels particularly heroic for doctors having experimented on his face when he really had no say in the matter.  I’m not sure how I would feel about that, if I were in his place.

For any child or parent who has a friend or family member with special needs, this is an especially important read.  When you feel different it can be very cathartic to hear from others who have gone through the same experiences.  It leaves you feeling a little less alone, a little more hopeful, and a whole lot more understood.  I highly recommend Ugly to all kids–elementary through teens.  For those with a personal tie to special needs or those who have experienced bullying, I recommend it doubly!

Rating: 4 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

The Red Pony by John Steinbeck

red-pony

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As I was browsing my parents’ bookshelf the other day, I came across a 1945 copy of The Red Pony by John Steinbeck. I think that old books are awesome, so I decided to read this short novel.

Premise:

Jody lives on a ranch in the Salinas Valley of California with his parents and Billy, a ranch hand.  Jody’s father is a controlling dictator, but Billy connects with Jody in a way that his father cannot.  When Jody wants a pony, Billy does all he can to ensure that he gets one.

My thoughts:

For some reason, I did not think critically about the story before starting.  This will be a fun story about a pony, right?  I forgot to take into account that John Steinbeck was the author!!  No, no, no–this did not turn into a cute and heartwarming pony story.  Stupid me for even thinking that it would.

If you’re familiar with Steinbeck’s other works, you’ll know that he tells sad, often depressing stories.  Life is hard in his books and this one is no different.  Jody, the main character, has some real set-backs in his childhood.  As the reader, you have to read between the lines to see how he’s coping with those challenges and how they ultimately affect him.

One question I want answered: What happens to Nellie’s colt???  And the old paisano??  Steinbeck leaves you in the lurch, guessing about what happened to these characters whom you thought would be important plot elements.  Oh well–I guess his novels are unpredictable, just like real life.

There are definitely some deep thoughts, feelings, and life lessons to ponder in this novel.  I don’t know if elementary-age kids will really grasp it all, or if they’ll just think it’s a depressing story.  I came away with a sense of how bleak life is and that our actions are ultimately futile and unimportant.  Steinbeck may have been saying something different–but that was my impression.

I would recommend this book to those who enjoy reading class literature and would like a fuller knowledge of Steinbeck’s work.  I’m not sure that the average reader would enjoy this book.

Possible Objections:

  • A handful of curse words (d-word & J.C.)

Rating: 3 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

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Boy by Roald Dahl

Boy

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Boy is a collection of memories that Roald Dahl shares from his childhood.  It is not an all-inclusive story about his childhood years, but just touches on the particular happenings that stood out to him.  He tells the reader about his parents and family, his preschool years, his time in boarding school, vacations in Norway, and his eventual start in life as an independent young man.  Scattered throughout the text are excerpts from letters that Dahl wrote to his mother as a child, photographs, and illustrations.

I am already a big Roald Dahl fan, so I enjoy reading a book that gives me a little more information about his personal history.  Even if you’re not a fan of his, the stories are quite entertaining and informative.  I really think you’ll enjoy this book.  It’s a fun, quick read.

Possible Objections:

  1. The d-word made at least one appearance in the book.
  2. There is an awful lot of talk about caning boys as a form of punishment.  While the author is simply relaying the facts of how punishment was handled in the school setting, it may be a bit traumatic for some readers.
  3. There are also a fair share of scenes in which the teachers treat students harshly.  This may upset some children.
  4. An incident is described in which the author’s nose was sliced almost all the way off in an automobile accident.  Again, this could be a traumatic idea for some kids.

Rating: 4 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

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