True Blue

True Blue

4.4 37
by Jane Smiley

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True Blue is a beauty, a dappled gray, and when Abby gets to take him to her family's ranch, she can hardly believe her luck. The horse needs a home: his owner—a woman brand new to the riding stable—was tragically killed in a car crash and no one has claimed him. Daddy is wary, as always. But Abby is smitten. True Blue is a sweetheart, and whenever

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True Blue is a beauty, a dappled gray, and when Abby gets to take him to her family's ranch, she can hardly believe her luck. The horse needs a home: his owner—a woman brand new to the riding stable—was tragically killed in a car crash and no one has claimed him. Daddy is wary, as always. But Abby is smitten. True Blue is a sweetheart, and whenever Abby calls out, "Blue, Blue, how are you?" he  whinnies back.

But sometimes True Blue seems . . . spooked. He paces, and always seems to be looking for something. Or someone. Filled with riding scenes and horse details, this newest middle-grade novel from a Pulitzer Prize winner offers a mysterious and suspenseful almost-ghost story.

Editorial Reviews

VOYA - Laura Panter
When Abby Lovitt visits her former stable to see the horse whose owner died in a tragic car accident, she feels compelled to buy True Blue on the spot. Abby believes she has purchased the perfect first horse...until she notices that something seems to be haunting Blue. Blue is skittish and tense, jumping at things no one else can see. Then, Abby thinks she sees the apparition of a woman who could be Blue's former owner. When she next hears a woman's voice warning her away from Blue, Abby is spooked. Afraid the woman is a figment of her imagination, Abby seeks the advice of her brother, Danny, and her friend, Barbie, to unearth the truth. Ranch life and religion play a strong role in shaping Abby's character and explaining her desire for answers to Blue's past. Abby's father is drawn as a stoic, domineering man who intimidates others with his black-and-white views of how life should be lived. Abby's family and friends are stock characters, while the stable students steal the most exciting scenes of the book. Smiley's attempt to create an engrossing tale of horse training and family values is marred by one-dimensional characters, mediocre descriptions, and a lack of engaging dialogue. Readers looking for a tale of horses may be briefly satisfied, but the bond between Abby and True Blue falls short of the emotional mark. The conclusion to Abby's discovery about Blue's former owner again falls flat. This is an additional purchase for libraries with an abundance of horse lovers. Reviewer: Laura Panter
School Library Journal
Gr 6–8—True Blue continues the story of Abby Lovitt and her conservative Christian family. Abby lives on a horse ranch in Northern California during the 1960s. She and her father go to see a beautiful dappled gray horse whose owner recently died in a traffic accident. Abby is enchanted and she pays $5.60 for him on the spot. True Blue is a nervous animal, and the girl soon wonders if his deceased owner might still be visiting him as a ghost. As she struggles with the idea of this ghost, she goes on a cattle drive, breaks her arm, and gives riding lessons. She also puzzles over her father's relationships with both her brother and with their church. This novel will appeal most to readers interested in horses as the author is generous with passages containing detailed descriptions of training, grooming, and riding. Those looking for lots of action or humor will be disappointed.—Mindy Whipple, West Jordan Library, UT

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Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.30(w) x 7.48(h) x 0.74(d)
950L (what's this?)
Age Range:
10 - 11 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

I had gone into the house to change my jeans, and I was only about halfway out of my boots—which were very muddy—when the phone started ringing. And it kept ringing, all the time I was pulling off my boots and hanging up my hat and pushing my hair out of my face. I was really wet—I’d been riding Happy in the arena when the rain fell out of the sky like water out of a bucket, and we were drenched so fast we just started laughing. Daddy was in the barn, and Mom jumped off of Jefferson and ran in there with him—she was right by the gate, so she didn’t get as wet as I did. I could barely see my way across the ring, the water was coming down so hard. But Happy didn’t care. All of our horses lived outside anyway. Rain was just a bath to them.

And then it all stopped. There we were, standing in the aisle of the barn, looking out at the clouds blowing off and the sun shining through the misty air. Mom said, “Oh, I love California. The weather just comes and goes. And there are no tornadoes. I love that the best.” Back in Oklahoma, where Mom and Daddy had grown up, there were tornadoes every day, or at least that’s how they made it sound when they talked about it.

But I had to change my jeans at least—my jacket had kept my shirt a little dry.

The phone rang and rang, and I knew because of that it would be Jane Slater, and it was. Jane was a trainer at the big stable on the coast; she had helped us sell a horse there in the fall. She said, “Oh, Abby! How are you? I do so miss talking to you. What’s it been?”

I said, “We saw you at New Year’s. How—”

But she was excited about something, so she interrupted me. She said, “Then I didn’t tell you that Melinda is back, did I?”

“No, when . . .”

“She hasn’t grown an inch, and Ellen Leinsdorf thinks she’s her worst enemy! Their lessons are back to back, and they’re both riding Gallant Man, because, you know, there’s been a big brouhaha about Melinda’s parents’ divorce, and they have to half lease him to the Leinsdorfs to afford the board, which is fine, but, goodness! What am I talking about?”

Ellen and Melinda were two students she taught; I’d helped her with them from time to time. Melinda was older—about ten—but Ellen was tougher. I laughed to think about them and said, “I don’t know.”

“Oh, Abby, I miss you. I feel surrounded by little little girls!”

I said, “I miss you, too.”

“Well, why don’t you come over here and look at this horse, and I can see you.”

“What horse?”

“Such a sad story. But he’s a nice horse. His name is True Blue. Very pretty dappled gray, black mane and tail, black points. Is your dad around?”

Just then, Daddy came in. I handed him the phone and ran upstairs. That was the first I heard of Blue. While I was looking for a clean pair of jeans, the rain came again, and by the time it was over, the arena was too soaked to ride any more that day, because even if there was no more rain for the rest of the weekend, it would take twenty-four hours (“Only a day!” Daddy always said) for the arena to drain. This meant that our work in the winter could be a little intermittent, but at least there were no blizzards. Back in Oklahoma, whenever there weren’t tornadoes, there were blizzards, and Daddy and Mom had to walk through them for hours on end to get home from school, without mittens or buttons on their coats (at least, that was what my brother, Danny, always said when they started talking about how lucky we were to be living in California). “And uphill both ways!” When he said that, I always laughed. Of course, I went to Oklahoma myself from time to time, and the weather was fine.

So instead of waiting around and maybe going over to the coast “at some point” (it was a half-hour trip each way, and more than that if we were pulling the horse trailer), we decided that we had nothing better to do than go look at True Blue and then shop for groceries. We left Rusty, our dog, sitting inside the gate with that look on her face that she always had—“Don’t bother to call. I’ve got everything under control here.”

The rain might have skipped the coastal part of the peninsula, because even though there wasn’t a horse show, the stables were busy with lessons in all the rings, and grooms, riders, and horses were walking here and there. I looked around for my old horse Black George and that girl, Sophia Rosebury, who had bought him, but I didn’t see them in any of the rings. I made myself stop looking. I had had tremendous fun on Black George for a whole year. I thought about him often, but I hadn’t seen him since they’d driven away with him in the Roseburys’ trailer before Thanksgiving. In fact, I was a little afraid to see him, not because I thought there would be anything wrong with him, but because I thought that seeing him would make me miss him more.

Jane ran over to meet us when she saw us parking the truck in the little lot. Daddy said, “You didn’t get all the rain?”

Mom laughed. “We got buckets. It drove us out.”

“No rain,” said Jane. “Just fog fog fog. Did I say fog?” She lowered her voice. “Our golfers don’t allow that sort of weather disturbance around here.”

We all smiled. It was fun to see Jane.

The horse, True Blue, was in the nicest part of the barn, and he was standing in his stall, looking out over the door toward the rings with his ears pricked. He saw Jane right away and tossed his head. She said, “He’s such a sweetheart. Listen to this.”

We must have been about fifty feet from the stall still; she called out, “Blue! Blue! How are you?” and he let out a tremendous whinny. She said, “He always answers.”

“He’s a poet and don’t know it,” said Mom.

“Absolutely,” said Jane.

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True Blue 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 37 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was a great book! It was everything you could ever want all in one book. I think kids really like the fact that the story is told from a child's point of you. I rate this book five stars.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was the best horse book i've ever readif you like adventure read this book!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Amya Beach More than 1 year ago
See i love horses and books.If u lik horses read this! :)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Love the bit of ghost story
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love this book! Every time I read it I feel like I just got sucked into the book and I feel like I'm actually there!!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I giving three stars because i have not read it yet. Sounds like a cool vook. On my summer reading suggestion list. Hope its good.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is by far my favorite series of all time! Great description about what the charachers are feeling, I especially love the addition of ghosts! I can wait until Gee Whiz comes out! October 8th is marked on my calander!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It is a Christian series with little bad language or unappropreate senes. Very good.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Awesome book I am speechless!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ive read this book 2 times i still love it. Its a really good book if you love horses. Make sure you read the series of these boks they are really GREAT books!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is so good you should try it
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Awesome book loved it:):):):):):):):):)':):):):):):)::):):):):):):)':
Anonymous 6 months ago
I really love this book. I would reccomend this book to horse lovers
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Im giving it 1 because I just started
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The story was good, :), but I did not like the ghost parts, :(.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was amazing! I really didn't like the ghost but the rest was great.
mightyber More than 1 year ago
excellent, wonderful reading for horse lovers
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really liked true blue because I love horses I even ride them
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Alright, I'll admit,this want my favorite book involving horses. "The Scorpion Races" takes that spot. But this book was interesting and I enjoyed the way it was written. However it didn't have much of a plot and the ending wasn't very satisfying. Still it earned four stars.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Im starting to read this book and im sure i will like it cause Jane Smiley is really discriptive. I love all of her books that i have read and im sure this one will be really great! But the first book is the georges and jewels.