Heading back to my roots this week and offering up some reviews of great graphic novels for Teen Read Week. I might be a week late, but the celebration never ends!
Title: Grand Theft Horse
Author(s): G. Neri and Corban Wilkin
Publisher: Tu Books/Lee and Low (2018)
Age Rating: 12+
This is the true story of a woman that gives the middle finger to the American horse racing establishment to save a horse from inhumane treatment, and it’s everything you had no idea you thought it could be.
Lee & Low Books sent me a copy of this book, and I was like…whaaaaa? I saw a 200-page story about a woman and a horse from the writer of Yummy and thought…whaaaaaaa?
I opened the book to find a black & white masterpiece, drawn by Corban Wilkin, that tells a tale similar to that of a Temple Grandin, the woman that revolutionized the cattle industry in the 1970’s. Gail Ruffu was raised to loved horses, and while I’m simplifying for time, her love for horses turned into a fight for a furry pal named Urgent Envoy.
The book reads as part courtroom drama and part sports expose with all the emotion and intrigue of a Robin Hood story.
You will fall in love with Gail Ruffu and her quest to save a horse, but it’s much more than that, for as we discover in the afterword written by Ruffu, she has worked to save horses across the U.S. racing industry by changing the industry itself, hence the Grandin reference earlier. Her drive and determination are inspiring. This is one of those books that makes you want to become a better person. Ruffu’s love for animals and justice is contagious, and in a world where many people believe in winning by any means necessary, it’s wonderful to find people that refuse to sacrifice ideals and morals in the face of money and success.
This Middle Grade graphic novel contains a plethora of themes and motifs perfect for teaching empathy, kindness, and civility; that’s where the biggest benefit of the graphic comes to the surface. While you may have a student or two that attempt to side with the industry over Ruffu in the discussion of this book, most of your students will find solace in Ruffu’s sacrifice and passion.
I personally know people that tend to side with those that win by any means necessary, as long as it does not break the law or the rules. This is what the racing industry wanted to do with Urgent Envoy: continue racing the horse, putting it in danger, even though no racing rules were broken. In the formation of your argument for or against the industry is where you will find your moral compass. I don’t know about you, but how someone treats animals is very telling of how they treat people.
I love this book. It made me think. It brought me to tears. It made me hug my pup. It is perfect for any classroom.
I’ve been off graphic novel reviews for a few weeks now, and after yesterday’s Lemire review and now this masterwork, I’m sure glad to be back! Go read this book…
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