Children's books and book reviews - reading resource for kids, teachers, librarians, parents

Young readers book reviews for ages 8 to 12 years old

*The Georges and the Jewels* by Jane Smiley- young readers book review
The Georges and the Jewels
by Jane Smiley
Grades 5-8 240 pages Knopf September 2009 Hardcover    

Abby lives with her parents on a horse farm in California during the 1960s. An integral part of the family business, she spends most of her free time training horses to be resold to buyers looking for a horse so well-trained that “a little girl can ride him.”

Relatively quick turnover of each horse is needed for her family to make a profit. For this reason, her father calls all the mares “Jewel” and all the geldings “George” to limit their attachment to the animals.

Abby’s father is a strict born-again Christian. There are some strained relationships between family members – especially with her older brother and uncle.

The primary focus of the book is horse training. After a one-month-old foal is orphaned, Abby and her mother work to raise and assimilate him with other horses on the farm. Another horse, Ornery George, becomes Abby’s primary problem, refusing to take direction and becoming increasingly obstinate.

The sub-focus of the story takes place at school, where Abby has a few close friends but is excluded from the 7th-grade cliques and becomes unintentionally involved in a conflict involving a stolen necklace.

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jane Smiley portrays a unique, realistic story of what it was like for a child to grow up training horses. Elaine Clayton’s accompanying pencil illustrations depict three horse-related implements at the beginning of each chapter (e.g. helmet, bit, jump, etc.). These illustrations supplement the text to offer the reader a visual image of the objects discussed in each chapter.

As Abby works with her uncle, and then a professional trainer with Ornery George, the reader learns about different methods of horse-breaking and the importance of authority, patience and relationships in successfully training a horse. These values translate, to a limited extent, to Abby’s relationships with her classmates and their seventh-grade social problems.

Although centered on horse training, The Georges and the Jewels is a multifaceted first-person narrative covering many issues, family relationships, authority and friendship. Children without prior knowledge about the beliefs of some born again Christians will be puzzled by her father’s extreme reaction to her school mission project and his assertion that the “Roman Catholic Church is a great and powerful enemy.”

Immediately attractive to girls who love horses, others will enjoy the book’s well-rounded characters and animal relationships, and will connect with Abby’s struggles with friendships at school. Author interviews suggest this book is the beginning of a series. Recommended for students in 5th grade and older.
Young readers book reviews for ages 8 to 12 years old

click here to browse children's board book reviews
click here to browse children's picture book reviews
click here to browse young readers book reviews
click here to browse young readers book reviews
click here to browse young adult book reviews
click here to browse parenting book reviews
web reviews
  Kristine Wildner/2010 for curled up with a good kid's book  

For grown-up fiction, nonfiction and speculative fiction book reviews,
visit our sister site Curled Up With a Good Book (