Black Diamond and Blake

( 4 )

Overview

Black Diamond was the fastest, the best. After every race he’d stand with a wreath around his neck while cameras clicked and smiling people called him champ. But when he stumbles and hurts his leg, all that vanishes. Black Diamond’s new home has high walls topped with razor wire, and the men who live there are called prisoners. Will anyone in this strange new place think he’s the best, treat him like a champ?

In this tender friendship story, the author draws on real-life ...

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Overview

Black Diamond was the fastest, the best. After every race he’d stand with a wreath around his neck while cameras clicked and smiling people called him champ. But when he stumbles and hurts his leg, all that vanishes. Black Diamond’s new home has high walls topped with razor wire, and the men who live there are called prisoners. Will anyone in this strange new place think he’s the best, treat him like a champ?

In this tender friendship story, the author draws on real-life programs that teach inmates to take care of horses and other animals. Young readers who enjoy both the thrill of horseracing and the special bond between humans and horses will find much to savor within this richly illustrated, profoundly moving tale.

Deborah Blumenthal and her husband, Ralph Blumenthal, live with their children in New York City.

Miles Hyman’s rich, painterly art has appeared in the New Yorker, Rolling Stone, Family Circle, and on hundreds of book covers.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Phyllis Kennemer
What happens to racehorses when they can no longer race? Some are sent to prisons to serve as therapy animals. Blumenthal's story begins with Black Diamond as a consistent winner. He basks in the attention of his owner, the jockeys, and the fans. But as he ages, his knees and ankles get sore. He is no longer winning races. Then he stumbles and hurts his leg. His racing days are over. Black Diamond is sad and afraid when he arrives inside prison walls, but Blake, his caretaker, is kind and patient. They become great friends as Blake serves out the remainder of his sentence. When he leaves, Black Diamond is so unhappy he becomes ill. Sometime later Blake appears again. He has found a job on a horse farm and has obtained permission to bring Black Diamond there. An idealist ending. Although it is unlikely that most racehorses are as fortunate as the fictional Black Diamond is during his last years, young horse lovers will enjoy the story and celebrate the love exhibited. Reviewer: Phyllis Kennemer, Ph.D.
School Library Journal

Gr 1-3

Black Diamond, a prize racehorse, is sold to a prison horse-care program after he is injured and can no longer compete. He feels abandoned by the human family he has always worked to please, but he gets a second chance at happiness when he meets Blake, the inmate chosen to care for him through the rehabilitation program. The two form a close bond, but then Blake finishes his sentence and Black Diamond's care is given over to two insensitive inmates. "For days, weeks, and months, Black Diamond looked for Blake." Just when the horse has given up hope, the man returns with enough money to purchase him and take him home. Beautiful dry pastel illustrations in warm tones harken back to a time of Art Deco, the Golden Age of cinema, and WPA murals. Told from the perspective of Black Diamond, the sensitive story sometimes borders on sentimentalism, but it is genuinely moving, so these moments are easy to forgive. This unique tale, distinctly set in the past and based on actual contemporary work-rescue programs, offers children a vision of hope for the discarded animals and humans of our society.-Madeline Walton-Hadlock, San Jose Public Library, CA

Kirkus Reviews
Black Diamond, a fictional champion racehorse, goes to a prison equine rehabilitation center after a career-ending injury, in this tale inspired by real-life prison programs. A young inmate, Blake, befriends him, and-happily-ever-after-adopts Black Diamond upon his own release. Unfortunately, Blumenthal's black-or-white attitude stacks the narrative deck: Black Diamond is a champion racehorse, not an ordinary one; a sinister man "with a fat wallet" tries to buy Black Diamond before the rehab program does (why would this be bad?); the prisoners other than Blake treat Black Diamond harshly (so the rehab program is inhumane?); Blake is in prison for stealing money to help his out-of-work father support the family (only prisoners with noble motives are worthwhile?). These extremes manipulate readers' emotions without presenting a realistic picture of such programs for readers. Overly sentimental third-person narration in Black Diamond's voice includes such clunky lines as "in a minute that grew heavy with time." Hyman's lovely pastels provide a 1950s feel, which seems at odds with the modernity of the rehab programs. (author's note) (Picture book. 5-8)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780375840036
  • Publisher: Random House Children's Books
  • Publication date: 2/10/2009
  • Pages: 40
  • Sales rank: 1,205,525
  • Age range: 3 - 7 Years
  • Product dimensions: 8.50 (w) x 11.20 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Deborah Blumenthal

Deborah Blumenthal is an award-winning journalist and nutritionist who writes children's books and adult novels. She has been a regular contributor to The New York Times and has written widely for many other national newspapers and magazines. Charlie, the world's greatest guinea pig, lived with Deborah and her family for more than two years. They traveled to many great American cities together—never without fresh vegetables!

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 4 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 24, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Reviewed by Jaglvr for Kids @ TeensReadToo.com

    BLACK DIAMOND & BLAKE is a beautiful story of trust and friendship.

    Black Diamond is a champion racehorse. He receives treats, praises, cheers, and flowers after his many wins. He runs his heart out for his racetrack family. Each race he vows to win for them.

    He loses his first race, by just a little, and receives no praise or cheers. After he stumbles in another race and hurts his leg, he hears "Boo" from the audience and is left alone.

    After that race, a man, stinking of smoke, comes and buys Black Diamond. Black Diamond is nervous until a soft voice leads him to the horse trailer, saying he's going home. But Black Diamond is home - and he doesn't know what is happening to his world.

    Black Diamond finds himself behind prison walls, literally. For him, it's truly a prison...he's used to running free. He has become part of the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation. The Foundation rescues retired racehorses and pairs them with prisons to help develop bonds between the horses and the inmates. Black Diamond is reserved and hesitant until an
    inmate, Blake, befriends him.

    They spend time together every day, but when Blake is released, Black Diamond is worse off than before. It's only when Blake comes back for him that Black Diamond truly find his home.

    I found BLACK DIAMOND & BLAKE a bit sad, so overly-sensitive children may be upset by the story if they don't make it to the happy ending. But the bond that Black Diamond and Blake form is truly special, and the story will leave you feeling loved and treasured by the last page.

    Ms. Blumenthal presents the information about a true foundation in a unique perspective, one that children will come to love and will want to read about over and over again.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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