Posted in Book Lovers Community

Little Britches #3: The Home Ranch

This article is going to be shorter than the others in the Little Britches series because this book is pretty unique for the series.

Near the end of Man of the Family, we learned that Ralph spent his last summer in Colorado working for Mr. Batchlet. That summer proved to be a very important season in Ralph’s life, but not one that he could explore in Man of the Family. In the second installment of the Little Britches series, Man of the Family, Ralph concentrates on the family storyline and how they were learning to exist without his father’s support. We do get one chapter dedicated to his summer, and it’s a good one! When that book closes, however, the family is headed East.

Before advancing that storyline, Ralph dedicated the third book of the series, The Home Ranch, to that special summer. While there were lessons that he learned about himself during that experience, there was no way to capture that summer in the second book.

While the first two books mark the passing of time, critical milestones, and help us understand the family life that was so essential to Ralph’s development, this one is more a collection of vignettes.

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In this third offering, we are treated to a really fascinating look inside of ranch life through Ralph’s experiences. This is a story that is a celebration of the cowboy life, the grit of the men who do the work, the tenacity of the women who support them, and the mentoring that older men offer to younger men in this precarious existence. Ralph learns incredible technical lessons, develops an interior life of self reflection, and we get hints at what his own future might look like.

Readers of the second book may open the third book and be crushed when they realize that we are not going to hear about how the crisis of the family’s flight is resolved. Where the second book ends, it is very difficult to want to go backwards and look into an experience that only deepens our regret at Ralph’s loss when the family had to leave. I was so irritated on my first reading that I closed this book and jumped to the fourth. Frankly, you can do that without missing a beat.

This one is such a standalone that you can really read it anytime after the closing of the second book. It does not advance the overall plot line of the series, but it does enrich it.

Despite my being discouraged about the out of order nature of this one, it is a fantastic book. And many of the lessons that Ralph learns in this book come to serve him well in the fifth, seventh, and eighth books. (The sixth book is a detour in Ralph’s life and is very different from the other books in the series.)

If you are doing this series as a read aloud and you have horse loving listeners, I would read this one in the appropriate order. If you choose to skip the book so that you can see what happens after they leave their farm, do make sure you come back to this one. The Home Ranch is a book about mentoring, independence, and hard work.

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We will be reviewing all of the Little Britches books. Find all that we have posted here.

Posted in Book Lovers Community

Seabiscuit, Family Friendly

“Separately they were nothing more than a failing jockey and a broken down horse. Together they would become the hard luck heroes for a troubled nation.” – Seabiscuit PBS Documentary

In 1938, America was hurting. Not only was the nation poor, scared, hungry, and gearing up for war, but it was also broken. The Great Depression had ravaged so much more than the economy. It left men feeling like little more than discarded and helpless animals. America needed some good news. She needed a hero to rally behind. She needed to see one of her own climb out of the pit and ascend back into the Promised Land.

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Short, chunky, distrustful, abused, knobby-kneed and so often defeated, Seabiscuit was the most unlikely hero of them all. Descended from equine royalty, Seabiscuit had been found wanting. In the hands of trainers who did not understand his personality, he was relegated to the grueling work of making better horses feel more confident than they deserved to feel. He was badly raced and forced to lose so often that he learned no other way of competing.

In August of 1936, automobile entrepreneur Charles Howard bought the three year old disappointment on the recommendation of his ranch horse trainer, Tom Smith. The unorthodox Smith, had locked eyes with the colt, and felt intuitively that he understood him. Smith argued that the Biscuit was something truly special who had been seriously misunderstood and undervalued. While most horses were evaluated for their feet, Smith argued that Biscuit would win with his heart and his head.

Tom worked to restore Seabiscuit’s health and his spirit for the next two years, winning races along the way. Equally broken and blind in one eye, jockey Red Pollard was another unusual but genius pick by Smith. The horse and the jockey understood each other almost right away and would go on to understand each other for the rest of their lives.

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In November 1938, Seabiscuit was slated to compete against racing legend, War Admiral. The race was dubbed a “David and Goliath” pairing and “The Match Race of the Century”. Howard, a marketing wizard, knew how to compare his horse and jockey to the spirit of the everyman American. America could not help but identify with the “failing jockey and broken down horse” (Seabiscuit PBS Documentary) and see themselves in this Cinderella story. If Seabiscuit had not existed, someone would have needed to have invented him.

This story is so beautiful on many levels. I get emotional every time I read about it or watch a movie related to it. Charming and exciting, it has been captured and retold many times. Fans simply cannot get enough of this fairytale true story, so families have a lot of choices when it comes to sharing the story with their children. In this article, we are going to review several of the most famous family friendly versions of the story. In a future article, I will deal with the more mature version as laid out in the Laura Hillenbrand book, Seabiscuit: An American Legend, and the 2003 film based on Hillenbrand’s work.

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Ralph Moody, author of the Little Britches books, is one of the greatest horse story tellers I have ever read. His passion for horses breathes a special kind of life into the stories he relates. Our family has loved many of his books, but this one has to be one of the best. Utterly family friendly, Come On Seabiscuit reads like an exciting adventure story. Equally good in print and in audio, we have used it as a family read aloud as well as a quiet time listening book. In the near future, my nine year will likely read it independently for his daily reading time.

In 1939, Charles Howard produced a documentary of his famous horse. For many years that documentary was considered lost. In 2003 the rediscovered documentary was colorized and re-released to coincide with the new film based on Laura Hillenbrand’s book Seabiscuit: An American Legend. The documentary is titled Seabiscuit: the Lost Documentary (1939). Old as it is, my children were enthralled by it. Seeing the real Seabiscuit and Red Pollard on film made them feel as though they were being transported back in time. Understanding that the quality of the film is quite vintage, it was still a viewing treat.

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As part of the “American Experience” series in 2003, PBS did a feature length documentary on Seabiscuit. It was beyond watchable – it was downright exciting. As a family we appreciated all of the details that the Moody book had not included. As a reader, I appreciated the interviews with Pollard’s daughter and friend as well as that of Laura Hillenbrand. Family friendly, well done, and interesting to watch, it really enhanced our appreciation of the Moody book.

 

In her second to last film, Shirley Temple starred in a 1949 fictionalized version of the Seabiscuit story. True to it’s era in movie making, it does not even try to be faithful to the story but reinvents it with the biases of that time. Horse lovers and history buffs will be pleased to know that footage from the actual match race with War Admiral as well as the 1940 Santa Anita Handicap race is spliced into the film. Modern viewers, however, may not appreciate the coarse Hollywood portrayal of immigrants and characters of color. While not faithful to the true story, and ethnically insensitive, it is generally wholesome and family friendly. Until younger viewers are mature enough to watch the 2003 film, this is a sweet Seabiscuit story with some historical footage. Our family purchased it in a four-pack of classic Hollywood horse films including Black Beauty.

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In a future article, I will talk about why the 2003 film is absolutely not family friendly. Beautiful, expertly made, emotional and substantive, it is also appropriately dark in places, has some off-color language, and includes a brothel scene that just can’t be easily explained to young viewers. This is a film for adults and mature teens. Objectionable as some parts are, it is very compelling.

 

Posted in Book Lovers Community

Childcraft: Animals in Danger

We are working on a project related to the Childcraft books which will take many months to complete. As we are working on that project, we do not have time to wrap our heads around every volume as quickly as we would like. We don’t want families to have to wait to see inside any volumes that we have access to, however. In the interim, we are going to put up a series of posts that aren’t heavy on text but are rich with interior photos. To find everything that we have written about Childcraft, check out this link.

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Posted in Book Lovers Community

Childcraft: Mysteries and Fantasies

We are working on a project related to the Childcraft books which will take many months to complete. As we are working on that project, we do not have time to wrap our heads around every volume as quickly as we would like. We don’t want families to have to wait to see inside any volumes that we have access to, however. In the interim, we are going to put up a series of posts that aren’t heavy on text but are rich with interior photos. To find everything that we have written about Childcraft, check out this link.

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Posted in Book Lovers Community

Childcraft: The Indian Book

We are working on a project related to the Childcraft books which will take many months to complete. As we are working on that project, we do not have time to wrap our heads around every volume as quickly as we would like. We don’t want families to have to wait to see inside any volumes that we have access to, however. In the interim, we are going to put up a series of posts that aren’t heavy on text but are rich with interior photos. To find everything that we have written about Childcraft, check out this link.

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Posted in Book Lovers Community

Childcraft: Look and Learn

We are working on a project related to the Childcraft books which will take many months to complete. As we are working on that project, we do not have time to wrap our heads around every volume as quickly as we would like. We don’t want families to have to wait to see inside any volumes that we have access to, however. In the interim, we are going to put up a series of posts that aren’t heavy on text but are rich with interior photos. To find everything that we have written about Childcraft, check out this link.

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Posted in Book Lovers Community

Childcraft: About Us

We are working on a project related to the Childcraft books which will take many months to complete. As we are working on that project, we do not have time to wrap our heads around every volume as quickly as we would like. We don’t want families to have to wait to see inside any volumes that we have access to, however. In the interim, we are going to put up a series of posts that aren’t heavy on text but are rich with interior photos. To find everything that we have written about Childcraft, check out this link.

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