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I Rode the Red Horse: Secretatriat's Belmont Race Hardcover – April 25, 2003
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Gr. 1-3. Secretariat's awe-inspiring win at the 1973 Belmont Stakes is retold through the eyes of Ron Turcotte, the jockey who rode Secretariat to victory in all of his Triple Crown races. Turcotte's account, as told to Barbara Libby, is remembered in perfect detail 30 years later, making this historic race truly come alive: "'Easy big boy,' I whispered. 'You don't have to go yet,' but he was running his own race." Libby's colorful, realistic artwork is particularly successful when showing horses in motion. A spread depicting Secretariat crossing the finish line thirty-one lengths ahead would have given young readers a fuller sense of the magnitude of his win, but this is a minor quibble about a book that beautifully captures a memorable sports moment. Todd Morning
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There are few things in life I treasure more than kids' books about horse racing. With attendance at the races and TV ratings so anemic, anything the sport's fans, higher-ups, and participants can do to bring new generations of fans into the fold is a wonderful thing. What better way to get them thinking about the ponies at an early age than books like this and the recent one about Seabiscuit's match race with War Admiral? Eclipse Press, to be sure, is doing their part.
The problem is, the book itself isn't all that great. The illustrations are quite nicely-done, in an almost pointillist style, but keeping enough detail so that the reader can tell what's going on. Where the book falls is in Libby's prose. A Publisher's Weekly review of the book leads me to believe Libby simply transcribed Turcotte's own account. If so, she would have been well within her rights to take some artistic license, because the prose in this book has an odd, stilted quality to it; it's recognizably English, of course, but the grammar and sentence structure throughout are liable to make you wonder if English was the writer's first language (Turcotte, a Canada native, was born in New Brunswick, so it's possible French was his first language, but I'm not sure.)
Because of this, the book might best be suited to those not quite old enough to read yet; let them absorb the pictures first, see the Belmont replayed on TV (which happens every year, of course, about a hundred times over during ESPN's Triple Crown coverage) a few times, and then let them get into the verbiage of the thing. Older kids who aren't yet old enough to have a good enough understanding of the grammatical rules of English, which is the target audiences of the book (grades 1-3), may be left scratching their heads, unable to puzzle out why some of the sentences are written the way they are. Which can lead to far more embarrassing questions than "where did I come from?" ** ½