Sunday, July 04, 2021

The Dust Bowl (American Horse Tales #1) , Chasing Lucky

Corpora, Michelle Jab├Ęs. The Dust Bowl (American Horse Tales #1
June 29th 2021 by Penguin Workshop (Paperback)
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Ginny's family lives on a farm in Oklahoma that has been in the family for several generation, but has recently fallen on hard time in the 1930s. After a particularly bad dust storm that damages property and crops, the father feels that they need to try to sell some possessions in order to keep going. Ginny has her own horse, Thimble, who is expensive to keep. When she goes with her father into town to try to sell Thimble, she has the horse perform tricks to make the men think he is lame, so no one will buy him. Her father is angry, and Ginny decides it would be best to run away and try to get to family in California who have offered to take them in. During her travels, she helps Silvio, who is also trying to make it to California. His father has passed away, and things are even harder for his family, in part because they are Mexican American. The two get a little bit of a break when they help a well to do man get his car to a service station using Thimble. Mr. Bennett feeds them, tells Ginny she should go home, and even gives the children $10 to help them out. They make a little progress, but when Ginny starts to cough in a way that reminds Silvio of his father's fatal illness, she gives Silvio the money and starts for home on Thimble. When she returns, will the family be glad to see her? And what will become of Thimble?
Strengths: I would have loved this book as a child, and readers who enjoyed Hapka's Ponies of Chincoteague series will want to have this one on their radar. Ginny's devotion to Thimble, and her attempts to save him, will resonate with readers who would love to have a horse of their own. Ginny does have a plan for running away, and even makes fairly good preparations. I enjoyed the inclusion of Mr. Bennett, who is working for a government agency that helps farmers reclaim lands damaged by the dust bowl, and there's even a mention of the father getting employment with a WPA project. As we approach the centenary of the the 1929 Stock Marker Crash, I suspect that we might see more books about this topic. I wish that the Colorado Historical Society could put their Dust Bowl house experience online so that readers could understand the full impact of what Ginny experienced! 
Weaknesses: A girl going through Ginny's experiences in the 1930s would probably have understood why her horse had to be sold. The Great Depression was so severe that some families sent their children out on their own; a horse would have certainly been a luxury. Also, I know that the term "American" is used for the US, but it has always bothered me. I would have preferred a name that included United States instead.
What I really think: This series looks to be in paperback, on the short side, and has very large print. This would be great for elementary readers who live and breathe horses, but since I already have the entire Horse Diaries series, I will pass on this one.

Bennett, Jenn. Chasing Lucky
November 10th 2020 by Simon Pulse
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

Josie Saint-Martin and her mother have lived an itinerant lifestyle ever since they left the small Rhode Island seaside town where they lived with her grandmother. Now, as her senior year approaches, her grandmother and aunt have left to work in Nepal, leaving Josie's mother in charge of the bookstore which has been in the family for ages. Her cousin, Evie, will also be with them. One of the first people Josie meets when she comes back to town is her former best friend, Lucky Karras. The two had been inseparable, but when Josie left town suddenly, Lucky's life spiraled downward. He was involved in a bad fire, and carries scars from that, although his family's fortunes have improved and they now run a successful yacht repair service. There are some priveleged kids in town who go to a private school, and one of them, Adrian, shows up at a party showing a nude photo of Josie's mother as a teen. The Saint-Martin woman have a reputation, and also a "love curse" that seems to follow them, and Josie feels awkward and angry. When she and Lucky leave the party together, she ends up throwing a rock that accidentally shatters a large window at Adrian's family's department store. Lucky takes the blame, and Josie feels guilty. She tries to help him pay for the window, even though she's not making a lot of money herself. Most of her income comes from a photo hosting web site where she displays her art work; this also leads to rumors that the nude photo came from her site. Josie and Lucky spar back and forth, and both have a lot of anger about the way their lives have gone. Josie worries about her mother's erratic behavior, her cousin Evie's choices of friends, and her own future. Her father is a successful photographer in California, and Josie hopes to graduate from high school and go to join him when her mother fulfills her own wish of moving to Florida. Josie doesn't speak much to her father, but hopes to impress him, although she is unable to get an internship. When her relationship with Lucky takes an interesting turn, will it jeopardize her future?

This is a solidly young adult book because of the high levels of angst Josie exhibits; she doesn't get along with her mother, she worries about her cousin, she can't seem to stop making choices that make her the subject of gossip in town, and she has trouble communicating with Lucky in a straight forward manner. There is also more romantic activity in the book than middle grade readers would be comfortable with. 

Josie's love of photography is interesting, and she has a camera collection that will intrigue anyone familiar with actual cameras. Each chapter starts with the description of one of her pieces of art; she specializes in pictures of signs from her small town. There is some information about using light to take good pictures, the web site hosting her art, and a few other details that will speak to fans of Rushby's Shooting Stars, Nelson's Hot Cocoa Hearts, and Bauer's classic Thwonk. 

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