First, I have to say that this book has something to do with horse racing. And I've really liked horse racing since I was about 13 years old & watched the Kentucky Derby for the first time on TV. So right there, it had me. But it's also a well written book, with some interesting characters & a great insight into what life was like in Kentucky during the Civil War.
The book starts with Gabriel, a 12 year old slave, being given the chance to go to Lexington with his father & also his master. His father has bought himself freedom, & hopes to earn more money to buy both his wife & son theirs also.
Gabriel has a true gift with horses, which he inherited from his horse-training father. With a fair-minded master, he has an easy life for a slave, & he knows it. Opportunities seem to be opening up for Gabriel as a jockey, but just when he thinks he knows what the future will bring, the War invades his work life & his family.
I'm honestly not sure if I'll read the other two books in this series, but I do like this book for the back-door education it gives young readers into the Civil War from a slave's point of view. I never knew myself that Kentucky was a neutral state--it was much more peaceable than my native Missouri, where there were many bloody conflicts. But no state came out unscathed by the war, & no family did either.
Another great Mark Twain Award nominee. The kids of Missouri are voting right now on the winner--I'll be anxious to see what they end up liking the most!