Will you be in Saratoga on Friday, July 19th, for Opening Day at the historic, 150-year-old, Saratoga Race Course?
Of course you’ll be there! No real fan of horse racing would miss this most extraordinary Opening Day in racing history. (Severe illness, tsunamis are exceptions.)
But even with a broken leg–you’ll make it. Whether you’re a local to the Saratoga/Capital Region of Upstate New York, or you’re traveling from around the United States or Planet Earth–you know the profound significance of this near-sacred space. To be in Saratoga–to see our horses racing–to be one of the enlightened people who know the Secret Handshake of Those Who Get It–is to feel…special. Set apart. You’re an insider, with insider’s information.
And because you’re tuned in, you won’t come skidding through the gates like Kramer, just as the starting gate slams open at 1PM. Whether you’re here for a day, a week or a lifetime–you’ll be on Union Avenue early.
And across the famed boulevard from the cast-iron fence of the Race Course stands a magnificent edifice. The Temple of Thoroughbred Racing. The National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame.
In this amazing, beautiful space on Friday morning the 19th–before the races start, as the City of Saratoga Springs, herself, buzzes like a hive-ful of Queen Bees–Author, Anne Hambleton will present a program and sign copies of her wonderful, insightful–and delicious book, Raja: Story of a Racehorse…
Anne Hambleton is a life-long equestrian. She knows horses and horse racing. She’s dedicated her life to the equine species, and Raja: Story of a Racehorse is testimony to her absolute devotion.
Now, I must insert here that, while Amazon and other marketing for the book states that Raja…
is aimed at the “young adult” market (ages 10 – 12)–that teens and adults will love it, as well. I’m 57 years old, and I’ve read it twice. (Did I just say that out loud?)
I love this book, and you will, too.
As I say so often–here’s the deal. If you read my stuff often, you know that I love quoting Hall of Fame Trainer, LeRoy Jolley. The day I met him in 2006, LeRoy–a champion of women in horse racing–got to talking about the many ill-conceived marketing plans that somehow still float around horse racing. He stated unequivocally, that horse racing just didn’t get it. He summed it up in one question:
“Who loves a horse more than a 13-year-old GIRL?!?”
He was so right. NO ONE loves a horse more than a girl. The connection between equines and females goes back to the first day that a horse met a female.
Cro-Magnon girls whined to their parents that they wanted a pony.
I have no doubt that those famous cave paintings of horses at Lascaux Caves in France–17,300 years old–were the graffiti of a horse-crazed girl.
We’re female types are hard-wired–genetically, spiritually–to love horses.
Anne Hambleton’s novel speaks to the girl in every one of us. Yes, of course, your 10-to-12-year-old daughter (or son!) is welcome to get the book, and to read it. But don’t think of this lovely tome as being strictly for young’ins. Any age–teen-through-87–who loves horses and cares about their well-being–will be drawn into this story. Hambleton wrote the book simply, but not simplistically.
Hambleton created a lead character in her heart, and stayed there. Writing from that same quiet place, she created a lead character who is sentient, first and foremost. (We KNOW that horses are sentient–this part of the character is not fiction.) And because Raja is sentient, he has feelings–genuine emotions–that come across beautifully in his creator’s choice of words and structure.
Raja is intelligent, so he takes those emotions and can process them.
Raja, you see, is the narrator of his own biography. This is a brilliant concept. By seeing the story unfold through the eyes of the protagonist (a protagonist whose species appears in many books, but who usually isn’t truly represented) readers, both young and old can know, personally, Raja’s full range of emotions: horror, shock, joy, love, fear, warmth.
Raja is a three-dimensional character precisely because has a brain, a soul and a heart.
Now, I’m not going to sugarcoat it for you: early-on in the book–on page five–our young hero gets a rotten dose of reality. At only three months of age–a foal, a baby–Raja experiences loss for the first (of several) time in his Life. This stinks–when first I read it last September, I was shocked, and saddened. When I read it again this month, I was shocked, and saddened.
But you know what? Life is real. Life can be rotten. And it wasn’t Kelly Clarkson who first told us that “What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger”–that brutal adage is as old as the human species.
Raja is a beautifully-bred Thoroughbred. Foaled on a gorgeous farm, owned by a Sheikha, this little critter is supposed to sail to the top.
But anyone who’s lived for more than three minutes realizes that what’s supposed to happen and what really happens can be two very different things.
Especially if you’re a horse. Most horses are at the mercy of the humans in their lives. (Even the Wild Horses in the American West are at the mercy of the BLM, which is a lot like putting a weasel in charge of security for a chicken coop. We won’t go there now.)
If horses’ lives all went as neatly as they do on paper–if it all looked as beautiful as registration papers at the Jockey Club–we’d have no need for a book like Raja: Story of a Racehorse.
But horses’ lives don’t go neatly. Mismanagement can happen–“bad luck” can happen–humans can screw up, horses get hurt. As too-often happens, in spite of wonderful intentions on the parts of humans–horses can end up in auctions, fearful for their lives.
Anne Hambleton wrote a book for girls (and boys, too, of course)–but she wrote a book for people who can grasp the concepts. Even a 10-year-old has suffered loss of some kind, sadly enough–but s/he therefore can go right into the heart of our dear Raja and empathize immediately with what he’s feeling. (Hopefully the event on page five hasn’t happened to potential young readers, but still–loss is loss.)
And NO, I’m not going to tell you what happens on page five. Don’t even ask. Uh-uh: I’m not going to tell the story to you, at all. I do not write Cliff Notes–I want you to read this book for yourselves.
Raja: Story of a Racehorse has won numerous awards:
* IPPY Award Bronze Medalist for Juvenile Fiction
* Benjamin Franklin Award Finalist for Young Readers Fiction (8-12)
* Winner of Mom’s Choice Gold Medal
* Kirkus 2012 Best of Indie Selection
This book has the chops to receive accolades from publishers’ and parents…and speaking of parents…such a good idea: If you’re a Mother (oh, all right–or a Father–ha!)–buy two copies of Hambleton’s masterpiece. One for your child, and one for yourself.
Even if your child is a rabid, wild-eyed teenager–you can help rein in those potentially-evil ways by sitting down with your treasured one and discussing the book. Start a Mom and Me Book Club–you and your daughter (or son, really) can learn so much about horses–about emotions–about each other–by reading and discussing the many topics contained herein.
The story of Raja: Story of a Racehorse is compelling precisely because it’s not just “a fun romp” through blah-blah-blah. The lessons, philosophies and nudge toward understanding horses as living, sentient beings who deserve love and respect–all are things that parents try to drive home with their children, regardless of age. Your kids can learn so much from this book–a book they will go back and read often throughout their lives. A book they will treasure.
A book can drive home virtues, values and morals in a way that no other medium can do. (Yes, of course, I write this as a wordsmith, a woman who loves the written word.) But I’m not being biased against other media when I tell you sincerely that when you buy your copies of Raja: Story of a Racehorse, you will enter the world of fiction, but fiction with great emotional and ethical content. You will give your children a gift so-far superior to tickets to Big Time Rush (or any other teen idol). You have here the opportunity to read a book with your dear one–to share important time together, discussing–and to let Anne Hambleton teach your children, well.
Anne Hambleton, Raja: Story of a Racehorse
Old Bow Publishing
Anne Hambleton Program and Book Signing
Saturday, July 19, 2013 10AM – 1PM
National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame
191 Union Avenue, Saratoga Springs, New York USA
00 1 (518) 584-0400
Book by Anne Hambleton
Illustrations by Margaret Kauffman
Cover photo of Afleet Alex by Cappy Jackson