Bubba Goes National is a new book by a new author of stories for pre-teen and young teen girls. Any girl who is intent on reading every book about horses that she can find will want this, the first book in the Green Meadow Series.
This is Jennifer Walker’s debut novel, but it’s certain that it won’t be her last. This book has everything that the young horse lover (probably mostly for girls) can want. Leslie Clark is 13, and lives with her dad. Her mother has been dead for several years, killed in a car crash. Leslie works for Helen at a nearby stable, Green Meadows, to pay for riding lessons for herself. She dreams of owning her own horse.
She is given a chance to show a wonderful horse, owned by a client of the Green Meadow Stables. The horse is beautiful and a good show horse, but it is sold after Leslie’s first show. Crestfallen, she continues to work and save her money. At the horse auction she finds a neglected Arabian gelding and suspects that he is a much better horse than he appears to be with his dirty coat and overgrown hooves.
She bids on him and names him Lucky, but her dad insists on calling him Bubba. As summer begins she works with Lucky and gets him in shape to show. As suspected, he had been well-trained, but then cast off. You can guess from the title of the book that Lucky Bubba and Leslie do well in their summer shows.
The book has lots of horse talk, and great values to learn. Leslie has to work hard for everything she has, unlike many of the clients of Green Meadows who have more money than she does. She forms a close bond with Helen as she lets the memories of her mother pass and the need for a loving adult female to guide her grows. There is the requisite nasty rich girl who tries to do everything she can to be mean to Leslie and make sure that she fails. She goes on her first date and shares a kiss with Alex, a shy boy who also works at the stable. There is plenty of the kind of drama that keeps a young girl wondering what will happen next.
The book sets up the series and gives a hint of what is to come in the next installment.
The only lack in the story is that although we are told who Lucky’s previous owner was, there is no reason given why they mistreated him and sent him to the auction. And I really wanted to know more about that. It didn’t make much sense.
Because of the date and the first kiss, I’m not sure what lower age limit to put on this book. That would probably be up to a parent to judge. There is nothing risque or inappropriate, but some parents might not want to move to this level in their child’s reading material too early.
At 234 pages, this is easy for a good reader to finish in a few days, but might be on the long side for younger readers, which is fine since I think it’s aimed more at junior high level anyway.
There are only three illustrations, and they are ok.
Update On Mar 06, 2010: Gave the book to the girls that I bought it for this weekend. I knew it was a little old for them, but the 7-year-old is a precocious reader. She immediately grabbed it and had read the first few chapters by the time we left. She said that she liked the characters. So it looks like Bubba passes the "kid test!"