February 19th, 2012 by Nancy
In honor of Black History Month, I picked up a copy of Alison Hart’s Gabriel’s Horses — but I wish I had known about it sooner! Let me tell you: I could not put this book down!
Gabriel is an enslaved youth on a Kentucky farm during the Civil War. He works alongside his father, a free man, with the horses on the Woodville Farm — caring for them, cleaning up after them, and occasionally even riding them. Gabriel’s two big dreams are to be free and to be a winning jockey in a horse race. Even though Master Giles is kinder than most slave owners, Gabriel longs for the day he’ll have the money to buy his freedom.
When Gabriel’s father enlists in the Union Army to fight for the North, a new horse trainer (a cruel one :() comes to Woodville Farm, and Gabriel’s chances for freedom seem hopeless. He considers enlisting in the army too, but cannot leave his mother. On top of all that, bandits are circling Woodville Farm, setting their keen and thieving eyes on the beautiful and fast thoroughbreds… but Gabriel certainly isn’t going to let bandits steal Aristo, Tenpenny, and the other horses he loves!
This is an excellent, fast-paced book if you want to learn about life as an enslaved youth during the Civil War and if you like horses. I love historical fiction and books about horses, and never thought that the two genres would overlap so perfectly. I’ve never read much about horse racing and jockeying, so that topic was especially interesting! I also really enjoyed the last section of the book, where the author explains a little of the historical background behind the Civil War, Black soldiers, and horse racing back in that time.
Gabriel’s Horses is the first book in the Racing to Freedom Trilogy, followed by Gabriel’s Triumph and Gabriel’s Journey. I’m excited to pick those up and find out what happens with Gabriel. If you’ve had a chance to dive into any of the trilogy, leave your thoughts in the comments below or submit a book review!
Nancy loves reading about horses but has only ridden a horse once. It was really slow (and safe) but disappointing. So she’ll stick to reading about them.