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BLACK DIAMOND AND BLAKE

Author: Deborah Blumenthal

Illustrator: Miles Hyman

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Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf, an Imprint of Random House Childrens Books,

Material: hard cover

Summary: Black Diamond is a winning horse - until he gets hurt. Since he can't race anymore, he is sold. The man who buys Black Diamond takes him to a prison where the prisoners will take care of him. Blake, a prisoner, is is nice to Black Diamond and they become close. When Blake has finished serving his sentence, he is free, but Black Diamond has to stay behind. No one else can get Black Diamond to eat or exercise. After some time, Blake returns and takes Black Diamond to live with him at his new home. The author’s note at the end of the book explains how the prison program got started and that it is still a great program today. This is a picture book based on a true story about a horse program in a prison.

Type of Reading: bedtime story, family reading, independent reading, read aloud book

Recommended Age: read together: 5 to 8; read yourself: 9 to 12

Interest Level: 5 to 9

Reading Level: 4.4

Age of Child: Read with a 5-year-old girl.

Young Reader Reaction: I picked this story because it was an interesting subject and something we hadn’t talked about yet. My daughter liked the book and had lots of questions: why were the people mad when Black Diamond got hurt? why couldn’t Blake take the horse with him right away? She said she was very happy when we turned the page and it showed Blake had come back for his Black Diamond.

Adult Reader Reaction: I liked the story. It moved quickly and was easy to understand even though it was a heavier subject. I picked it, wondering if it might be over her head, but she understood the concepts and principles of the book.

Pros: Kids will learn about horses, responsibility, and life in this story about a prison program for horses. The writing is excellent and helps kids understand this heavier subject.

Cons: There are a number of issues you'll want to be ready to talk about: horses and what can happen to them, prison, why people go to prison, what happens in prison.

Borrow or Buy: Borrow, at least. This is a beautiful story that introduces kids to cultures (race horses, prison) they aren't likely familiar with. They make an interesting contrast of society.

If You Liked This Book, Try: A HORSE'S TALE; A COLONIAL WILLIAMSBURG ADVENTURE   ANNIE: THE MYSTERIOUS MORGAN HORSE   I RODE THE RED HORSE; SECRETARIAT'S BELMONT RACE

Educational Themes: There are a number of themes you can develop with this story. For younger children, the author makes it easy to draw out discussions of feelings, not only Blake's feelings, but Black Diamond's too. With more mature audiences, you can talk about prison programs and service projects; responsibility (personal and community); and getting second chances.

Literary Categories: Fiction - picture book, animal characters, life lessons

Date(s) Reviewed: April 2009

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