3 out of 4 stars
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Lucy always dreamed of being a champion show horse, winning ribbons and being pampered and adored. Now that she is approaching retirement, she knows that she will never get to live out her dream for herself, so she pins her hopes on the foal she carries. When her colt, Cody, is born gangly and plain-looking, Lucy is devastated and refuses to care for him. Fortunately, Cody is noticed by his owner, Peggy, who sees a spark in him that his own mother can’t. Peggy tries to give Cody a shot at becoming a show ring champion, but Cody has a different future in mind for himself. He struggles to communicate his wishes to Peggy and finds that humans just don’t seem to know how to listen. Undeterred, he takes it upon himself to make his own dreams come true.
Nobody’s Champion, written by Tiffany Reese, is a children’s story about Cody, the unwanted foal with a sharp mind and abundant potential who follows his own inner voice, regardless of what others say. It follows Cody through the first several years of his life and is based on the author’s own horse. Although it is mostly told from Cody’s point of view, it features thoughts and conversations by other characters as well, including the humans. The book focuses on themes of compassion, self-expression, and independence.
There is no questionable content in the book and no reason that it wouldn’t be appropriate for children. Though true violence is never depicted, one character is seen to treat animals unkindly; this character is portrayed as a villain, and so it is made clear to the reader that cruelty to animals is not appropriate behavior. Based on the writing style, I would estimate that the ideal reader would be ages 8 to 12, although readers of this age bracket would benefit from having some horse knowledge or experience in order to really understand the events. A reader without prior knowledge would need to be on the older side, perhaps over age 10, to be able to infer meaning from the mentions of equestrian disciplines, showing, training, and veterinary care.
I was dismayed by the many errors present. The most egregious of these was the author’s habit of putting entire conversations into a single paragraph, with as many as seven or eight lines by alternating speakers squished together into a single block. This occurred throughout the book and, in my opinion, sets a poor example for children, who are still learning how written language should be formatted. Editing is definitely still needed.
Nobody’s Champion earns a score of 3 out of 4 for its heartwarming tale of a little horse who wants to find his own place in the world and of the obstacles he has to overcome to get there. It would most appeal to elementary-aged readers, approximately ages 8 to 12, who have a love for horses and a fondness for stories of triumph and belonging.
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