by Alice Hoffman, Lou Fancher, Stephen T. Johnson

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Jewel is terrified of everything from mice to mountain lions. She is especially afraid of the horses on her ranch, and the one thing she would never do is ride one. But when her grandfather puts the fate of a scrawny newborn foal in her hands, she has no choice but to care for the sad little thing. Jewel names the foal Bug, and slowly grows fond of her puppylike new…  See more details below


Jewel is terrified of everything from mice to mountain lions. She is especially afraid of the horses on her ranch, and the one thing she would never do is ride one. But when her grandfather puts the fate of a scrawny newborn foal in her hands, she has no choice but to care for the sad little thing. Jewel names the foal Bug, and slowly grows fond of her puppylike new pet. Then one amazing afternoon, Jewel discovers an extraordinary secret about Bug. Unfortunately, someone else has discovered the foal's secret too - someone with sinister plans for Bug. Jewel must save her horse all by herself - and muster the kind of courage she never knew she had.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Hoffman's (Fireflies) fantasy about a girl who overcomes her fears contains a wise grandfather, a wicked circus owner, a herd of horses white as clouds and another horse the size of a Saint Bernard. Unfortunately, the abrupt transition from the realistic, leisurely opening of the story to its fantasy conclusion seems to crack the story in half like an egg. Jewel swears that "the one thing... she would never do, no matter what, was ride a horse." But the girl feels protective of Bug, a newborn runtlike foal, and Hoffman convincingly conveys the blossoming relationship between girl and horse. At a climactic moment, Jewel mounts Bug in response to a cruel classmate's challenge to a horse race; she can't stop Bug from running over a cliff and jumps off him. Here the tale takes a preposterous turn. In an unlikely scenario, while Jewel walks to the cliff's edge to check on the horse, "everyone else headed back to the school." Thus, only Jewel witnesses Bug unfurling previously undetectable wings. Later, during one of Bug's flights, a circus owner sees his gifts and abducts him. Timid Jewel single-handedly saves not only Bug, but also a herd of ponies trained by a woman who beats them. Hoffman unfolds her story with graceful language and a compelling voice, but the tale's swoop into fantasy may leave readers befuddled. Johnson and Fancher's dark and hazy paintings are appropriately mysterious, but do little to help make the fantasy elements of the story believable. Ages 5-9. (Aug.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Children's Literature
Jewel is a terrified child. She lives on a wild, beautiful ranch where the horses run free across the golden pastures. The horses frighten her with their loud galloping, making her hide from the noise. Jewel's father tries everything to coax her into riding the horses, but Jewel is adamant that she wants no part of them. The birth of a small foal changes Jewel's mind. This was no ordinary foal, though. Jewel begins to care for the tiny horse when its mother rejects it. She lets it roam through the house and sleep in her bedroom. The bond they form is so strong that Jewel takes up a fierce defense of Bug when some schoolmates make fun of his tiny size. As Jewel rides him hard to prove his worthiness, she discovers that Bug has an amazing talent: he can fly. They spend endless hours floating through the blue skies. No one else knows of their secret until a circus ringmaster happens to see them in the sky and kidnaps Bug. Jewel has become so brave because of her bonds with Bug that she is able to execute a plan to rescue Bug from the abusive circus hands. This is an unusual and intriguing story about overcoming fears. Soft-hued paintings accompany the text. 2000, Hyperion Books for Children,
School Library Journal - School Library Journal
K-Gr 3-This fantasy requires a very strong suspension of disbelief. Jewel is given a rejected foal to raise and discovers that it has wings and can fly. Unfortunately, an unscrupulous circus owner sees the horse and steals him. Jewel tracks them down that very same day, finds a costume in order to disguise herself as a circus performer, and by evening not only rescues Bug but also frees the other mistreated horses. The animals return with her to her grandfather's farm, and she and Bug fly happily ever after. Anyone who knows horses and riding may find it hard to enter into this fantasy since it violates so much of what they know. However, it is a story for dreamers and many children will love it for the good-versus-evil conflicts, the exciting events, and Johnson and Fancher's muted paintings that ably illustrate the story. Those who dream of riding on Bug's back and soaring through the clouds probably won't even realize that the plot of a lost animal found and rescued from the circus is hackneyed and trite.-Louise L. Sherman, formerly at Anna C. Scott School, Leonia, NJ Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
In Hoffman's adult work, the intersection of fantasy and realism is sustained and the suspension of disbelief can be close to absolute (The River King, p. 585, etc.). However, her American-brand magical realism seems forced and close to ludicrous within the very real conventions of a picture book. Set at Cloud Ranch in an undisclosed Western state, a fearful girl lives with her wise grandfather. Jewel is afraid of horses (rather inconvenient on a ranch), but this changes when her grandfather gives her an abandoned undersized foal. She names him Bug, and he is dog-like in his devotion. Jewel had asserted that she would never ride a horse, but soon she begins to ride Bug with ease and enjoyment. One day she discovers that Bug is a special horse in another way—he can fly! A mean circus owner sees them fly and covets Bug for his menagerie. He and evil cohorts steal Bug; Jewel sets about to get him back. In a daring Big Top rescue, Jewel arrives on the scene (in circus costume), runs into the center ring, and jumps onto Bug's back. It's Happy Trails meets Happily Ever After when, at her word, he "unfurled his wings" and they dive bomb his kidnappers before they make their escape (with the other circus hoses following behind). The real high-flyers here are the well-modeled and skillful oil-painting illustrations. Johnson and Fancher (Cat, You'd Better Come Home, 1995, etc.) are marvelously adept at rendering figures in both shadowy dark interiors and dazzlingly lit fields under cloud-dappled skies. Avid riders or readers of equine fact and fiction will note that Hoffman blurs the pony/horse distinction here but if one already accepts that Bug can fly,well,can't a pony be a baby horse? (Picture book. 5-9)

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Product Details

Hyperion Books for Children
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
8.79(w) x 10.80(h) x 0.40(d)
Age Range:
5 - 9 Years

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