Dec 24, 2020

Gift Horse

by Betty Levin

Matt has always dreamed of owning a horse. His great-uncle, a filmmaker who travels the world to find rare animals, promises to send him one, although Matt's parents think this is a misunderstanding. Matt works hard to get a space ready in the old carriage house on their property in the suburbs; his family assumes he's just playing out there. When he announces the horse has arrived (early in the morning when everyone else was sleeping) they think it's still a game and nobody goes out to see the horse for nearly a week! Then they're all stunned. Matt is crushed when his family says he can't keep the horse- but since it's an unusual breed- a Norwegian Fjord- they contact the horse farm it came from to try and find a buyer. Meanwhile Matt works hard to take care of his horse, alleviate its boredom (stuck in the stall or taking walks around the streets most of the time) and figure out how to scrape enough money for its food and other necessities. His friend next door helps out, he cajoles his older siblings to contribute, and before long all the neighborhood kids want to come see his horse, pet it, lead it around, maybe take a ride. They find someone to give some basic riding lessons, and then get a bright idea to enter the horse in a local pet show. Maybe the prize will help them keep it. It doesn't turn out perfectly, but there is a satisfactory solution in the end.

This book has a lot of amusingly ridiculous scenes, some honestly portrayed sibling and parent/child dynamics, and an unexpected ending that was nice. I liked the mention of other exotic animals- there's a small local zoo/museum that features rare animals and teaches the public about endangered species, a neighbor science teacher who wants to raise emus and keeps hibernating bats in his fridge, and the great-uncle is on a trip to Australia searching for the presumed extinct thylacine. When the kids use finger paint to make the Fjord horse look like a zebra, they run out of paint and instead turn him into a quagga for the "costume" contest in the pet show. Except nobody knows what a quagga is, they think the kids made it up. (I looked online because I've heard about the quagga breeding project, and there's actually zebras been bred now to have a very similar appearance). 

Good horse kid book, though the writing is simple enough I don't think I'll find it appealing as a re-read. I'll see if my fifth-grader might like it. Incidentally, this one reminded me a lot of Zoe's Zodiac by Mary Jo Stephens.

Rating: 3/5                  168 pages, 1996

1 comment:

  1. I hadn't heard about the quagga breeding project before, very interesting to read about! Thanks for the link!



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