readallthenewberys: animated gif of Snoopy writing a story with multiple strange subplots (Default)
[personal profile] justice_turtle
Summary: Tells about the life of a cowhorse in the early 20th-century West, from birth to old age.

Reaction: THIS IS AN EXCELLENTLY WELL-WRITTEN BOOK OKAY. If you have any interest in horse books at all, you should probably read it. :-) The rest of this review keeps being about its drawbacks; this is because I am running out of different ways to say AWESOME BOOK, AWESOME AWESOME AWESOME. And because, when I like a book this much, I keep wanting to just flail and say "everybody should read it, full stop!" but then I backpedal and think "but other people might not like it so much, because of Reasons! I should let them know about things they might not like!" And then I wind up with more criticism per ounce of review than I meant to. ;P

So. Women (and mares) and people of color don't come off so well, but it seems clear to me that - while the "casting" was a bit of-its-time - the writer does actively try to point up that it's these specific characters of his who were thoughtless or evil, and other women or other people of color wouldn't necessarily be the same.

As always, disclaimer: I am a pasty white person of whiteness, so if anyone darker than me or even just more familiar with That Is Very Racist wants to argue that something is worse than I am counting it, I will be happy to listen.

I would warn, if you're sensitive about treatment of abuse - the emotional aftermath of abusing an animal is really well-depicted here, a lot more accurately and pointedly than you get in Black Beauty or Beautiful Joe. (Good grief, how many take-better-care-of-animals books have I READ? *g*) I found it fairly upsetting in spots, where I'm not usually upset at all by books that are more graphic about the actual abuse but portray the animals as staying sweet-tempered throughout and understanding the difference between nice and nasty humans.

Conclusion: Four stars. I really, really want to give it five because it is THAT WELL-WRITTEN both in use of language (in a cowboy way) and plottery, but there are no lady characters who are awesome and the only PoC character is evil, so it does not get full marks. Sorry, book, you really do have some of the tightest plotting I have yet seen. :P

(ETA fix extra "not")
readallthenewberys: animated gif of Snoopy writing a story with multiple strange subplots (Default)
[personal profile] justice_turtle
Okay, I decided not to run the Mock Newberys of the Past strictly in step with the Newberys. Which allows for more flexibility in plugging in good books as I discover them! So, YAY.

So anyway: the next Proper Newbery Nominee on this list is Smoky the Cow Horse, the 1927 winner. In googling to un-confuse myself over the similar names "Will James" (this book's author) and "Will Rogers" (not this book's author), I learned that Will James was apparently the pen name of a Canadian cowboy, real name Joseph Ernest Nephtali Dufault.

I'll tell you, it's a lot easier to liveblog first-time reads than re-reads; WARNING for some animal abuse and racism )

In conclusion: I would call this book pretty solidly the Black Beauty of the USA, maybe even better than that. :-) It's so good and so well-written, I'm waffling on whether to give it five stars even despite the flickers of racism. O_O


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