Truth about Horses, Friends, and My Life as a Cowardby 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.
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)
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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
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.
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.
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!