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The Georges and the Jewels: Book One of the Horses of Oak Valley Ranch Library Binding – September 8, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 5–8—A quiet novel about the relationships surrounding 12-year-old Abby on her family's rural horse ranch in 1960s California. Due to her parents' strict religious views (no TV or rock music), Abby often feels like an outcast in her small seventh-grade class and she is often subjected to ridicule by the popular girls. She finds solace in working with the horses (there are numerous detailed scenes of riding, jumping, and grooming) with the exception of Ornery George. To avoid attachment and to ready the animals for sale, her father names all their horses George or Jewel. Meanwhile, the family is dealing with the estrangement of 16-year-old Danny, who left home after an argument. Abby's voice tends to be far more intuitive and insightful than one would expect of her age, especially as she discerns the nuances and tensions in her parents' relationship. The occasional anachronistic word or phrase such as "wandering around the strip mall" (a term generally not in use until the 1980s) tend to distract. Ultimately, the subtle shifts in attitude that occur may be appreciated by adults but lost on the young readers for whom the book is intended. Intricate pen-and-ink drawings of horse equipment at the beginning of each chapter give the book an old-fashioned feel.—Madeline J. Bryant, Los Angeles Public Library END --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Starred Review, Publishers Weekly, July 20, 2009:
"A lyrical meditation on horses, families, and the vicissitudes of peer relationships among girls."

Review, Booklist, September 15, 2009:
"[A] quiet, psychologically attuned youth debut."

Review, The Courier-Journal (Louisville, KY), October 3, 2009:
"'The Georges and the Jewels' is filled with fascinating details about the care and training of horses, and Abby is a refreshing heroine in today's snark-filled times."

Review, Chicago Sun-Times, October 18, 2009:
"Smiley’s intricate and sophisticated knowledge of horses shines throughout this book, making it a guaranteed winner for horse-loving youngsters."

Review,, September 27, 2009:
"I have never admired [Smiley's] writing as much as I do in the first of what promises to be a series of books for children...'The Georges and the Jewels' can easily take its place on the shelf along with the great horse stories of childhood."

Review, The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, October 2009:
"Readers...will be happy to mount up and ride along."

From the Hardcover edition.

See all Editorial Reviews

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 and up
  • Grade Level: 5 and up
  • Series: The Horses of Oak Valley Ranch
  • Library Binding: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (September 8, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375962271
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375962271
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.9 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #9,339,456 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

59 of 59 people found the following review helpful By Anne on September 17, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Although I am long past the young adult age, I loved this book. Jane Smiley is one of my favorite authors and my favorite of her books is "Horse Heaven". I think others who liked "Horse Heaven" will also like this, whatever their age. The main character (and narrator) is young and aside from the horses, the tensions arise from concerns of a teenage girl -- school, her classmates attitudes toward her and her relationship with her parents. But I consider it a serious book, very worthy of adult attention, especially from those who are interested in horses.

Her approach to horses is to consider them in depth and as individuals without sentimentality. I enjoyed the description of the horses and the relationship between them and their human connections. I am always curious about how things are done and loved the details about horse care and training.

I believe that most of Smiley's books are about responsibility and the different ways people do or do not own the consequences of their actions. This book is no exception and it considers these issues through the actions and reflections of unique and believable characters. I recommend it to all ages.
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38 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Teen Reads on September 28, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This wonderful novel takes place in the 1960s, when the main character, Abby Lovitt, is in the seventh grade. She lives with her strict but loving parents on their small California horse ranch. The family business consists of buying horses at low prices, getting them healthy and handsome, training them so well that they can claim "a little girl can ride him," and then selling them for a profit. They never keep a horse longer than necessary, as it means money wasted on food. Abby's father came up with a rule that they name all the male horses George and all the female horses Jewel, so as not to get attached to them. Abby isn't thrilled with this, and sometimes secretly names the horses something special.

Abby has been helping to train the horses for a long time, and even more so since her older brother, Danny, got kicked out of the house after a huge fight with their dad. She loves this responsibility, and is quite a talented rider and trainer. Rarely does she encounter a problem that she can't handle --- until she meets Ornery George. Ornery George and Abby can't seem to communicate, and most of the time he ends up bucking her off, despite her excellent riding skills. The only thing the two can agree on is that he will do what he wants and she will let him. She is so upset with him that she dares to stand up to her father and refuses to get on the horse.

But then one day an unusual stranger named Jem Jarrow stops by to look at Ornery George. He begins teaching Abby another way to communicate with horses, a method that Ornery George understands. This new communication even opens up new possibilities between Abby and her father.

THE GEORGES AND THE JEWELS is Pulitzer Prize winner Jane Smiley's first novel for young readers.
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Jessica Wheeler on September 30, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book was so perfectly right for me, that I originally felt I couldn't judge it objectively. So, first I gave it to my daughter who is just starting to ride. And, then I gave it to my mother who was never bitten by the horse bug. We all absolutely loved it. It is a wonderful book that while just right for a nine year old, has the ability to appeal to children and adults alike. I would recommend it to people of any age and with varying degrees of interest in horses. It is that good.

It is the story of a 7th grade girl named Abby growing up in 1960's California horse country. She helps her father train horses so that he can claim, "Kid's Horse for Sale." There are several great story lines that come together in this fast read to make us truly feel for Abby. A central theme is Abby's evolving relationship with a particularly difficult horse, that continues to throw her off. Through the course of the book we see various adults interact with the horse with mixed success, and eventually are able to witness a coming around thanks to a horse whisperer. The horse training details are simultaneously specific, graphic and enlightening. Most of all, it is particularly nice to witness it through the frank eyes of a young girl.

At the same time, Abby is growing up in a born-again Christian household where she is faced with the challenges of having her family's beliefs conflict with the things she is learning at school as well as the estrangement of her brother. This element of the book is important to the development of Abby's character, but is not overly described and is consistently presented without judgment. I wondered if Violet would ask questions about this religious component, but she didn't.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By corgi crazy librarian on November 27, 2009
Format: Hardcover
The Georges are the geldings. The mares are all named Jewel. The rule is you're not supposed to get attached to them because it's a business and the horses will be sold as soon as they are looking fit and good for riding.

Abby's family buys and sells horses for a living. Now that Abby's brother has left home it's up to her to ride and train the horses so her father can say they are gentle enough for a "little girl to ride". This means she has to find a way to get along with all the horses, even the grumpy ones.

The first bit of this book made me think I was in for a grim book about a demanding, Bible thumping father and a put upon daughter, but instead it was an uplifting story with a wonderful cast of multi dimensional characters both human and horse. Abby finds a way to get along at school, at home and with the horses. I can't wait for the sequel.
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