School Library Journal
A story set in Kentucky horse country during the Civil War. Gabriel, 12, is a slave but dreams of becoming a famous jockey. His father, a free man married to a slave, is a trainer for Master Giles's stable of Thoroughbreds. When the man enlists in the Union Army to earn the money to buy his wife's freedom, Gabriel must adjust to a cruel new trainer. Although the war's impact in Kentucky is less dire than in other Southern states, marauding bands of Confederate raiders terrorize residents, seeking horses, food, and anything else they can steal. One Arm Dan's bunch raids Master Giles's farm, not for food, but for the horses that Gabriel is determined to protect. Outnumbered, his only choice is to take eight of the animals and run. Master Giles, a kind man, rewards the boy's cunning and bravery by granting him his freedom and a paid job as his top jockey. Characters talk about the many faces of freedom, from actual emancipation, to being allowed to learn reading and writing, to realizing the dream of working at what you love. More subtle signs of liberation are seen in the black freemen who call Giles "Mister" and the slaves who address him as "Master." The author grounds this fast-paced tale in historical fact by providing a nonfiction epilogue. Readers will find this wonderful blend of history and horses appealing.
Ann RobinsonCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.