The Racehorse Who Wouldn't Gallop by Clare Balding

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The Racehorse Who Wouldn't Gallop by Clare Balding

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Peter Magee
Reviewed by Peter Magee
Summary: You'll be able to hear Clare Balding's voice as you read this book. It's warm, it's funny, it's a good story and the middle-grade reader is going to love it, horse lover or not.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 222 Date: September 2016
Publisher: Puffin
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0141362908

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Charlie Bass was ten years old and completely horse mad. She dreamed of owning her own pony and as the family lived on a farm, that might have sounded possible, except for the fact that there wasn't that sort of money around. Her parents were a bit (no, actually, a lot) eccentric and they asked the children to come up with plans for how they could make some money. Charlie's elder brothers thought up such sensible ideas as Strictly Come Chicken Dancing (yes, really) but they cried with laughter when Charlie suggested that they should buy a racehorse with the intention of winning the richest race of them all - the Epsom Derby.

OK, you're going to have to suspend disbelief about the impossibility/implausibility of a ten-year-old girl being listed as the trainer of a racehorse (yes - I'm sad enough to have looked up the rules and they're gloriously reassuring from the point of view of anyone who worries about animal welfare). That's not going to worry the tweens who will be reading this book. It's a glorious romp with a family you can warm to and who work their way into your hearts. I'm many times the target age for this book, but I read it through in one sitting, keen to know what happened and with my fingers tightly crossed towards the end.

The reason for that is simple. The writing is good and good writing appeals to any age group. There's some wonderful humour: don't miss Mrs Bass's rant about prominent women who have 'strong legs' (which sounds much better than 'thick thighs') or Charlie's antics at the auction. It was not a good time to wave to her friend. Clare Balding has wisely stuck to writing about what she knows well and racing is in her blood as well as being part of her professional life. Don't worry though, your ten year old is not going to be looking to make an investment on the potential winner of the three thirty at Wincanton - the story might be set in the world of horseracing, but it's essentially about a family working together to overcome the bad stuff which life throws at them and making the most of chances which come your way along with the fact that - as Balding says - you don't always win by following the crowd.

Illustrations (essentially drawings to accompany the chapter headings) are by Tony Ross, who (like Clare Balding) seems to be much in demand at the moment. It's all part of a well-produced book where there's been a lot of attention to detail. There's a nice touch, which you might like to look out for. The colours in which Noble Warrior races are green and gold, which, coincidentally, are Clare Balding's colours. I'd like to thank the publishers for letting Bookbag have an early proof.

The book will appeal to boys and girls - the leading character might be female but there's enough from the boys and particularly Joe the farmhand to provide the balance. If you're looking for more equine stories for the MG reader then have a look at books by Victoria Eveleigh whose series will appeal to both boys and girls. Girls, particularly, will love Nobody's Horse by Jane Smiley.

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Buy The Racehorse Who Wouldn't Gallop by Clare Balding at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Racehorse Who Wouldn't Gallop by Clare Balding at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy The Racehorse Who Wouldn't Gallop by Clare Balding at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Racehorse Who Wouldn't Gallop by Clare Balding at


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