From School Library Journal
Grade 1–3—Black Diamond, a prize racehorse, is sold to a prison horse-care program after he is injured and can no longer compete. He feels abandoned by the human family he has always worked to please, but he gets a second chance at happiness when he meets Blake, the inmate chosen to care for him through the rehabilitation program. The two form a close bond, but then Blake finishes his sentence and Black Diamond's care is given over to two insensitive inmates. "For days, weeks, and months, Black Diamond looked for Blake." Just when the horse has given up hope, the man returns with enough money to purchase him and take him home. Beautiful dry pastel illustrations in warm tones harken back to a time of Art Deco, the Golden Age of cinema, and WPA murals. Told from the perspective of Black Diamond, the sensitive story sometimes borders on sentimentalism, but it is genuinely moving, so these moments are easy to forgive. This unique tale, distinctly set in the past and based on actual contemporary work-rescue programs, offers children a vision of hope for the discarded animals and humans of our society.—Madeline Walton-Hadlock, San Jose Public Library, CA
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Telling the story of an imaginary racehorse named Black Diamond, presumably in the 1920s or 1930s, this picture book is a nostalgic and touching tale of second chances inspired by real events. After losing his winning edge, Black Diamond is shipped off to a prison, where inmates are offered the opportunity to care for and look after animals. Blake (in prison for the hard-to-blame act of stealing to help his family) forms a special bond with Black Diamond, but then is released and forced to leave the horse in the cold and sometimes abusive care of other inmates. Eventually, Blake returns for Black Diamond and takes the horse to his new home. The soft-focus art features quaint scenes of Black Diamond’s journey from the track to a home, anchored by a strong sense of a bygone time. Telling the story from the horse’s point of view meets with middling results, but the human-animal bond is a timeless theme and will evoke empathy in children. Even if they aren’t horse lovers to begin with, they’ll be touched by the sentimental ending. Grades 1-3. --Ian Chipman