Bea and the New Deal Horse by L. M. Elliott

Published by Katherine Tegen

Summary:  The Great Depression has taken just about everything away from Bea: her dad’s job, her mother, and her home.  Now her father is drinking too much, trying to hold things together for Bea and her younger sister Vivian as they travel from one place to the next.  After sleeping in a barn in Virginia one night, Bea wakes up to discover her father has left a note and vanished.  The note says that Mrs. Scott, the owner of the farm, is the mother of the girls’ mother’s college roommate and will give them a place to live.  Bea is cautious about revealing their identity, but eventually Mrs. Scott discovers them and reluctantly lets them stay on her horse farm.  She is facing financial difficulties as well and has recently made things worse by buying an ornery chestnut horse to save him from an abusive owner.  Bea takes a liking to the horse, and after many ups and downs, Mrs. Scott agrees to train her to ride, with the hope of showing and selling him in a few months.  Bea, Mrs. Scott, and the horse have all been through some tough times, and it’s difficult for them to trust one another, but slowly they start to forge a bond, helped by Malichi, a blind Black WWI veteran who works in the house and Ralph, a loyal stable hand for many years.  By the time of the horse show, despite the high stakes, the somewhat patchwork group has solidified into something resembling a family.  Includes a lengthy author’s note with additional historical information and a list of sources.  384 pages; grades 4-7.

Pros:  Fans of The War That Saved My Life will want to check out this historical fiction novel with a heroine whose gritty determination has been shaped by hardship.  Anyone who loves horses will also appreciate the many scenes of riding and barn life, and I encourage you to keep a few Kleenexes handy for the final horse show.

Cons:  I was not crazy about the name they finally chose for the chestnut horse.

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