Tuesday, July 16, 2013

BOOK REVIEW: Race the Wind! by Chris Platt

If Chris Platt had been publishing when I was a kid, I never would have let my parents talk me out of taking jumping lessons, the next step I yearned to pursue in my equestrian training. Adolescents can use all the encouragement and inspiration they can get, and Race the Wind! provides plenty.
Book: Chris Platt, Race the WindThanks to the faith and hard work of Katie Durham, the racehorse named Willow King no longer suffers badly twisted legs. After painstaking training, mostly depicted in the award-winning prequel (Willow King), the Thoroughbred from an unknown Oregon stable finally gains the strength and heart he needs to compete in major races. Katie determinedly sets out to prove to the world that Willow King possesses the stuff of champions.

Katie, too, wants to prove herself. Born with one leg shorter than the other, she always felt as if people doubted her physical abilities. Already granted permission to gallop Thoroughbreds in workouts, she seeks to become a licensed jockey in time for the Kentucky Derby. She knows the dangers of the profession but believes she can master the tricks of the trade. But can she master her own doubts and fears, and guide her beloved Willow King into the winner's circle?

The answer may surprise you.

Solid storytelling, a clean prose style and well-rounded characters make Race the Wind! enjoyable for adults and youths alike. Even Katie's nemesis, the stable owner's bratty daughter, demonstrates a heart in the latter half of the book. I knocked off a quarter-point because I wanted to see a tad more development in their relationship at the end. Another quarter-point came off because some of the jargon, such as "hotwalker," did not come with sufficient explanation for the non-insider. If Platt covered this turf in the prequel, then it constitutes the only point at which my reading experience suffered for not reading Willow King first.

I wish my daughter were old enough to read Race the Wind! for herself, and I definitely plan to keep it for her. Platt touches upon many teen issues with deft sensitivity, including self-image, boy-girl and parent-child relations, and helping others to overcome their own handicaps -- emotional as well as physical. I dub this book a prime candidate for mother-daughter book clubs for, whether we realize it or not, we all live with some form of handicap.

The author, who pursued her passion for horses to become one of the first female jockeys, counts among her literary heroes Marguerite Henry and Walter Farley. As a horse- and book-loving young girl, I shared her idols -- and consider Platt worthy to join their ranks.

(Originally published in Crescent Blues. Reprinted with permission.)

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