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Gabriel's Horses (Racing to Freedom) (Racing to Freedom Trilogy) Paperback – February 1, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 5–8—A story set in Kentucky horse country during the Civil War. Gabriel, 12, is a slave but dreams of becoming a famous jockey. His father, a free man married to a slave, is a trainer for Master Giles's stable of Thoroughbreds. When the man enlists in the Union Army to earn the money to buy his wife's freedom, Gabriel must adjust to a cruel new trainer. Although the war's impact in Kentucky is less dire than in other Southern states, marauding bands of Confederate raiders terrorize residents, seeking horses, food, and anything else they can steal. One Arm Dan's bunch raids Master Giles's farm, not for food, but for the horses that Gabriel is determined to protect. Outnumbered, his only choice is to take eight of the animals and run. Master Giles, a kind man, rewards the boy's cunning and bravery by granting him his freedom and a paid job as his top jockey. Characters talk about the many faces of freedom, from actual emancipation, to being allowed to learn reading and writing, to realizing the dream of working at what you love. More subtle signs of liberation are seen in the black freemen who call Giles "Mister" and the slaves who address him as "Master." The author grounds this fast-paced tale in historical fact by providing a nonfiction epilogue. Readers will find this wonderful blend of history and horses appealing.—Ann Robinson, Moultonborough Academy Library.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

On a Kentucky plantation during the Civil War, slave Gabriel Alexander, 12, cares for his master's Thoroughbred racehorses and dreams of being a great jockey, just like his dad. After Pa enlists with the Yankees, the boy also yearns to be a soldier and fight for freedom. At the core of this stirring historical novel is the question of what freedom means. Runaway slaves and freemen join the Yankee army only to dig ditches and collect firewood for white soldiers. The boy's first-person, present-tense narrative brings close the thrilling horse racing––on the plantation, at the race course, and in the war––and the African American history in all its complexity. In this first entry in the planned Racing to Freedom trilogy, the cast is huge, with dozens of names on every page––family, plantation workers, horses––and it would be helpful if the next two books included a list of characters for readers' reference. Extensive historical notes and a bibliography close. Rochman, Hazel
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 and up
  • Grade Level: 5 and up
  • Series: Racing to Freedom Trilogy (Book 1)
  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Peachtree Publishers (February 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1561455288
  • ISBN-13: 978-1561455287
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #448,242 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Alison Hart has been writing since she was seven years old when she wrote, illustrated and self-published The Wild Dog. (A book she still shows young readers to prove that it's never too early to be an author.) Today she is an adjunct college instructor teaching reading and writing as well as the author of over twenty mysteries and historical suspense novels for children and teens, including Gabriel's Horses, which has been nominated for over eight state awards. "I honed my craft writing Nancy Drew mysteries and quickly developed a love of strong characters who are thrown into suspenseful situations; in other words, I love writing books that keep young readers glued to the pages."

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By J. Sheehy on May 13, 2007
Format: Hardcover
My daughter loves horses and oves this book. She is anxiously waiting for the second part of the trilogy. There are very few times that she finds a book she can not put down but this was a winner. I would love to find more books like this but for the 13-15 age group.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Virginia Reader on April 10, 2007
Format: Hardcover
An exciting and moving story about a little known piece of American history, that of enslaved people - young as well as old - working as jockeys in Kentucky around the time of the Civil War. Schools and libraries would do well to get copies of this book, as the research, details, and storytelling are flawless. Young readers will find this book to have everything they hope for - real characters, interesting settings, and an adventure that refuses to be put down. It's great to know that this is to be a triology; there are two more novels to come!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Patricia Anderson on October 1, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I am a social studies teacher in Florida and I'll admit it--I did not know anything about horse-racing during the Civil War. This book was very informative, fun to read, and well written. I applaud Ms. Hart for writing a book that middle school children can understand AND learn about history from! I couldn't put it down and found myself telling my classes about it. If you love horses, horse stories, history, or reading about the fight for freedom, you'll enjoy this book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By S. Beckhorn on May 7, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Hart's beautifully researched and written story illuminates a forgotten aspect of Black, Civil War, and horse history. Her exploration of the meaning of freedom is particularly thought provoking. Gabriel's humanity, courage, and intelligence make the fact that he was born a slave all the more poingnant.

Susan Williams,
Wind Rider, Harper Collins 2006
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Sorella on August 20, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Gabriel, a young slave, dreams of becoming a famous jockey of his Master's horses. During one race, the current jockey's arm gets broken, and Gabriel gets to race for the first time. His hopes to become the official jockey, though, are crushed when his father enlists in the Union army to buy his mother's freedom. His father is quickly replaced with a new man, who doesn't mind using the whip-- either on the slaves or the horses. If that's not bad enough, there's also a new jockey from ireland, who's just as bad. When the notorious One Arm raids the farm, though, Gabriel gets a chance to finally prove himself.

Though this book may not look entertaining from the cover, reading it will prove you wrong. This book is well-written, and easy to read. The characters were fun to read about, each with their own distinct personality. I learned much more about the civil war from Gabriel's point of view that I might not have learned somewhere else. I definitely didn't know very much about horses and their care, but now I know a bit more about them. The book was obviously researched very well, from the treatment of the slaves, to the Union army.

One thing I didn't like was how quickly all of the horse races are. One of the more critical races only took up roughly a page or so. I would've liked more details then, because I didn't really get a sense of how an actual race would be like. The author made it seem almost easy.

Mostly, though, I liked the book very much. It was fast paced, and fun through the whole book. You'll definitely put this book down with more knowing about the Civil war, and a new look on what it means to be truly free.
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Format: Paperback
Book one of a trilogy, this provocative novel offers a satisfying read on its own. Set during the Civil War, author Alison Hart deftly engages readers in a swirl of circumstances that aptly portrays a slice of Black history in 1864 Kentucky, including slaves, freemen, thoroughbred horse racing, and Union soldiers. The story is told by 13-year-old Gabriel, whose father is a freeman and mother is a slave. Gabriel takes care of the horses on the estate and one day hopes to be a jockey, like the famous Abe Hawkins, who invented the crouched riding style of American jockeys. An afterward to the story includes historical tidbits of genuine interest (slavery, horse racing, soldiers’ camp life, Confederate guerillas) as well as extensive biographical notes and websites. You’ll want to continue to Book 2!
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By Dreamer1997 on May 24, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Gabriel's Horses is a fun book for preteens,teenagers, and adults.

This book takes place back in 1864, Gabriel is a 12 year old slave boy who wants to be a famous jockey someday.
Gabriel and his family live on Mr. Giles' thoroughbred race horse farm. One day Gabriel's dad enlists to fight in the war,
now Gabriel is left to care for the horses. Mr. Giles hires a new trainer Mr. Newcastle and his jockey Danny Flanagen.
Gabriel is in trouble, he will have to face one of the hardest things he has ever done. Will he fight for the horses and himself, will Gabriel save them? You will have to find out!!!!

This book is great for those who like History, the Civil War, and horses. HAPPY READING!!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I chose this book as a read aloud for my 3rd grade class because it was a former Texas bluebonnet book. I didn't know anything about the author or the story before reading it, but was so impressed that I had to buy a copy for my collection. Alison Hart uses such vivid description and beautiful language to capture the reader's attention. The suspense kept the kids on the edge of their seats- and they begged me to keep reading! They complained, "You always stop at the good part!" One student replied, "They're ALL good parts!" She was absolutely right. This book was also excellent for teaching writing- word choice, sentence fluency, and voice. I definitely highly recommend it!
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