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Truth about Horses, Friends, and My Life as a Coward

Truth about Horses, Friends, and My Life as a Coward

4.7 4
by Sarah P. Gibson, Glin Dibley (Illustrator)
So you think you love horses? That’s what Sophie Groves thought too. But she found out that horses are a heap of trouble. Her trials began at five years old when her mom brought home Really (a.k.a. Really Mean), the nastiest pony in Maine.


So you think you love horses? That’s what Sophie Groves thought too. But she found out that horses are a heap of trouble. Her trials began at five years old when her mom brought home Really (a.k.a. Really Mean), the nastiest pony in Maine.

Editorial Reviews

Horn Book Guide
This story is a humorous account of Sophie Grove's struggle to overcome her fear of horseback riding, make friends, and put up with her outlandish family. Occasional black-and-white cartoons highlight some of the funniest parts of the story. Many kids, not just horse lovers, will be able to relate to Sophie's hopes and frustrations.
Children's Literature - Sarah Maury Swan
Sophie is five when her eight-year-old sister Sharon if given a pony by their mother. The pony turns out to be diabolically mean. Stuck with a mean pony, Mom doesn't give up. She buys a horse named Sweetheart, but her favorite thing is to race back to the barn, preferably under low-hanging branches which will knock her rider off. Finally, the family ends up with yet a third horse, Fancy. This one has feet the size of pie plates. Sophie is a timid child to begin with, and she is shy about making friends. She ends up being friends with Melissa, who is not afraid of anything, except maybe the pony. Still scared of riding, Sophie—with some not-so-gentle prodding from her mother—ends up taking riding lessons. She begins to discover that she can control Sweetheart. In the end, she ends being able to ride both Sweetheart and Fancy. She's still scared, but she muddles through and finds she might like horses. She also ends up with another friend. The book is a fun read, but I was concerned about some of the horse "facts." Sophie explains that the horses have their hooves trimmed and shoes put on in the spring, but that the horse shoer doesn't come back until the fall, when he removes the shoes. Actually, horses need to have their hooves trimmed and the shoes reset every five to seven weeks, or they'll end up with all kinds of hoof problems. Their hooves grow all the time. Still, there's a lot of humor in this otherwise well-written book. Reviewer: Sarah Maury Swan
School Library Journal
Gr 4-7–Though most girls love horses, Sophie has had only negative experiences with them. Mom had purchased a pony several years ago for Sophie's older sister to ride, but Really turned out to be a mean-spirited biter. Sweetheart, a trick-playing Arabian, and Fancy Free, a huge and intimidating Western Buckskin, were acquired soon after. Sophie is frightened of them. Though schoolmates at first befriended her to ride her horses, the truth about these particular critters soon gets out. Only stubborn Melissa, who is determined to ride Sweetheart, and Rachel, who has no interest in the animals, stick around long enough to become true friends. Sophie has a stubborn streak herself. Finding inspiration in heroes like Lawrence of Arabia, she dreams of galloping across the beach at her island home in Maine. She is determined, and, after numerous riding lessons, ultimately successful. Charming but infrequent cartoons accompany the text. Though there are some flaws with the pacing, the book eventually hits its stride. The horses' personalities shine through, and they become the real supporting cast. Sophie narrates her adventures with self-deprecating humor and genuine emotion as she faces her fears, confronts a bully, and learns the importance of self-reliance, and her well-developed character makes this short and sweet tale memorable.–Jane Cronkhite, San Jose Public Library, CA
Kirkus Reviews

Sophie never wanted a pony, but her mother did; that's how Really (short for Really Mean), Sweetie and Fancy ended up in their yard. While she continues to refuse to ride them, Sophie endures several hair-raising pony adventures on the ground. Finally overcoming her fear, she mounts, only to fall off in every way possible. Gibson's debut should be knee-slappingly hilarious but isn't—Sophie's narrative voice is far too adult, which keeps every scene at arm's length. Her school and summer friendships with Rachel and Melissa are told rather than shown, with no real conflict among the girls to keep the plot percolating. Instead of following a narrative arc, the novel ends up as a collection of episodic chapters titled in picaresque fashion ("In which I suffer..."). With its undemanding narrative style and Dibley's occasional cartoon vignettes, this will entertain die-hard horse fans—that is, most ten- to 13-year-old girls. (Fiction. 8-13)

Product Details

Amazon Childrens Publishing
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.90(d)
870L (what's this?)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

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The Truth about Horses, Friends, and My Life as a Coward 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Phillybrarian More than 1 year ago
Mixing the droll, deadpan understatements of the traditional Maine storyteller and the tongue-in-cheek humor of a Sciezska or a Pinkwater, Sarah P. Gibson offers 16 delightful vignettes of native, Maine Islander Sophie Groves' struggle deciphering what's easier: living with three crafty, ornery, downright nasty horses or discovering true friendship among her classmates. Her seemingly doomed attempts to win the respect of her family's three horses, while at the same time navigating the social world of the pre-teen, looking for a friend who is a true friend and not just a (shudder) "horse lover," provides a unique and funny look at growing up in Maine.

Each chapter is an unexpected and humorous tale of trials and tribulations showing the horses who's in charge and trying to convince new found friends that horses are not the adorable, noble steeds they are thought to be. Sophie Groves' understated, dead-on, Laocoön-like predictions of the horses' behavior, along with her friends shocked surprise upon experiencing the true nature of horses, never fails to provoke a laugh. Gibson allows the reader to experience the sweet sensation of knowing better than the characters that enter into Sophie's life.

Will anyone ever listen to Sophie when it comes to Sweetheart, Fancy Free, and Really? Are sweets the only means of convincing the horses to cooperate? Can she cope with the Carpwells? How easy is it to tell a moose from a horse on Halloween Night? Is there a true friend for Sophie? Find out the truth behind all these questions in Gibson's The Truth About Horses, Friends, and My Life as a Coward.

~Jeff Bullard, Library Coordinator, Free Library of Philadelphia
storiesforchildren More than 1 year ago
Sophie Groves lives with her parents and sister on an island in Maine. Her mother, who is an artist, decides that Sophie's sister Sharon should learn to ride, so she buys a pony which they name Really (as in Really Mean). Over the course of time, the family acquires two other horses, and Sophie takes riding lessons too. The only trouble is that Sophie is basically a coward. She is afraid to ride horses. She is also afraid to make friends at school. She is not among the popular crowd nor is she among the smart students. Will Sophie ever learn to deal with the horses and to find friends?
This book is written in a breezy, rollicking style that easily keeps the reader turning the pages to see what will happen next. As is usual in books like this, there is a disclaimer, "This book is a work of fiction." However, it is interesting to note that the author has the same initials (S. G.) as the main character in the book, that she grew up on an island in Maine, and that she had to endure the agonies of owning a motley trio of horses. So it seems to this reviewer that it is barely possible that some of the events in the book may have basis in actual facts. When I was in junior and senior high school, most of the girls I knew loved horses. While the book can be enjoyed by anyone, middle school age girls will especially identify with many of the problems that Sophie faces.
Readers will laugh aloud as they romp with Sophie; her horses Really, Sweetheart, and Fancy Free; her schoolmates Heidi, Melissa, and Rachel; and her family through wild pony cart rides, visits from the Carpwells, runaway horses, and trick-or-treating on Halloween. Some parents may like to know that there are a few common childhood slang terms for the rear end and a couple of bodily functions, but for most families that will not be a problem. Although I think that they are beautiful animals, I have never been much of a fan of horses, but I had a fun time reading this book.
Seashirl More than 1 year ago
This is a funny book to be enjoyed by any horselover of any age. The auther's stories rang true in my ears and I often found myself chuckling over situations similar to those I had experienced. Certainly a young rider could be inspired after reading about Sophie, who in the book overcomes her fear and develops into a very competent rider.
Unexpected to Sophie is her newfound enjoyment and appreciation of her friends in the barn. I had fun with this book.
omanmom More than 1 year ago
In this hysterical account of the trials and tribulations of animal ownership, Sophie Groves struggles to overcome her fear of horses. First there's the mean pony, then the tricky Arabian, and finally the biggest horse Sophie has ever seen. Despite devious and dastardly family friends and crazy horse antics, Sophie tries to make friends who are interested in her not her horses.

Written for tween and pre-adolescent girls, The Truth About Horses is a warm and entertaining story about finding real friendship in the face of comic adversity. Although I am neither the audience for this book nor a parent of a young girl, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it! Your daughter, your niece, your neighbor's daughter, and your babysitter will love it, too!