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True Blue: Book Three of the Horses of Oak Valley Ranch Library Binding – September 27, 2011

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About the Author

JANE SMILEY is the author of many books for adults, including Private Life, Horse Heaven, and the Pulitzer Prize-winning A Thousand Acres. She was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2001.
            Jane lives in Northern California, where she rides horses every chance she gets. She is also the author of four other novels for young readers in the Horses of Oak Valley Ranch series:The Georges and the Jewels, A Good Horse, True Blue, and Pie in the Sky.

From the Hardcover edition.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

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.

From the Hardcover edition.

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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: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (September 27, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375962298
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375962295
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,171,948 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Free2Read on November 25, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Jane Smiley has given us treasured books like "A Thousand Acres." She also writes for children. "True Blue" is the third of her horse books for those of us who fell in love with horses and books simultaneously, whether it was "Black Beauty" or "The Black Stallion."

In "True Blue," a horse's owner has died. He is a beautiful dapple gray, who responds to his name with a whinny. Luckily for the horse, the boarder knows just the family for him when he is left without an owner: the Lovitts, a ranch family down the road, trains horses. Abby, the young girl, is thrilled to have True Blue for her own, to keep her mind off some of the boring stuff in school, like geography and grammar. She can tell you the geography of the horse quite well, from hoof to withers, from ears to tail.

As much as this is Blue's story, this is Abby's story. She finds out that "there's no such thing as a gift horse," since horse care is hard work. She also learns that both friends and families have foibles, just as she herself does.

Each chapter begins with illustrations. Each chapter reflects a step of growth into young womanhood and greater knowledge of the world outside the pure world of the horse corral. The divisions within the Lovitt family and the mysterious realm of ghosts and spirits keeps this horse tale moving along at full gallop.

It's a good primer for people who are not horse owners and as always a good primer for writers on the use of voice, dialog, and back story from the eminent, horse-loving Jane Smiley.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By KidsReads on February 3, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Thirteen-year-old Abby Lovitt's world is centered on her family's California horse ranch. Her parents are very strict, but she knows they love her very much. The family earns a living by buying horses, sprucing them up with good care and intensive training, and selling them. Their newest investment didn't cost very much; in fact, Abby buys True Blue with the change in her pocket. The dappled gray gelding is a border at a nearby horse facility, and his owner dies in a car accident. With no one claiming him, Abby's family takes over his care and training.

Right away, Abby feels there's something different about True Blue. First of all, he comes with a lot of baggage: two trunks full of fancy horse equipment and a pair of expensive riding boots. All of these reminders of the dead previous owner make Abby a bit uncomfortable. It doesn't help that Blue is a bit edgy himself; he's nervous about his new surroundings and spooks easily. Sometimes Abby catches Blue staring out at nothing, or at least nothing Abby can see. Still, the first few training sessions with Blue go relatively well, despite the unease of both Blue and Abby.

Then Abby breaks her arm in a fall off of another horse. She's embarrassed, and the worst part is that she can't ride for six weeks. As she learns to perform everyday activities with one hand, she also tackles a new task: giving riding lessons. Teaching others what comes naturally to oneself can be a challenge, and Abby works through these obstacles with her new students. But there's another conundrum in her life that isn't so easy to figure out --- the ghost of Blue's previous owner seems to be haunting them.

Any horse lover will be intrigued by the training techniques and horse care in this novel.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Sage on November 30, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is part of a trio of stories about a young girl and her families work with horses. It is stupendous! The girl has her issues, the horses have theirs and the family too, but this is a great example of how to work through them! I LOVE these stories and I am 67! I recommend them as gifts to ANY age horse lover, but especially for the younger girls with horses.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on November 3, 2011
Format: Hardcover
True blue is about a horse who's owner has died.The girl Abby ownes a horse farm with her parents and she buys Blue from her friend who borded him.But Blue seem's spooked. Abby tries to find out what is spooking him.This book is mystical,suspenseful and great fun to read.This is one of the very best books i've read!
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Duke Dog on July 8, 2013
Format: Paperback
I don't understand why authors who write stories for kids (middle school age) feel the need to put anything violent or sexual in the book. The book is suppose to be about a girl who gets a horse after the owner of the horse tragically dies in a car crash. However, in Chapter 13 at a sleep over one of the girls tells a story and swears it is true. I won't go into the details but here's the short of it. One of two brothers starts seeing a red headed girl following/hanging around the other brother at school. This girl is a ghost. The book quotes two "living" girls at school saying that this certain girl would have graduated 3 years earlier, which would make the red headed "ghost" girl in the 9th grade. To put the details together, this "ghost" girl got pregnant and was killed by her boyfriend. He committed suicide by intentionally standing in the middle of the road and letting a truck run him over. This happened while he was in the Army. He was drafted into the Army, which would have made him at least 18 years old minimum. So if you think that this book will be a simple book about a girl, her new horse and their adventures, think again.
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