Grand Theft Horse

illus. by Corban Wilkin. 240p. Lee & Low/Tu Bks. Sept. 2018. Tr $19.95. ISBN 9781620148556.
Gr 7 Up—Neri's graphic novel biography of his cousin Gail Ruffu mixes true crime and legal drama with horse racing and animal activism. When "horse whisperer" Ruffu met Urgent Envoy, she felt a deep connection. Teaming up with Bud Clayton and his horse racing syndicate, she invested in the horse as a co-owner and trainer. On Christmas Eve the next year, in 2004, Ruffu stole Urgent Envoy to keep him from racing to death after he developed a hairline shin fracture. But the others didn't see it that way. As they pressed charges and denied Ruffu's side of the story, Ruffu risked everything—her career, her horse racing license, potential jail time—for justice. This gripping seven-part exposé lifts the veil on corruption in the horse racing industry and introduces one of the sport's pioneers. As the narrative jumps through time and travels between locations (mostly Texas and California), readers learn more about Ruffu, including her "Air Force brat" upbringing and Creole heritage. Wilkin's boldly outlined pen-and-ink art is all angles and scratchy lines, expertly conveying emotions and action sequences. Appended photographs of the subjects enrich the work, as does a call-to-action afterword from Ruffu.
VERDICT Superb. Ruffu's tenacity and the book's satisfying conclusion will appeal to fans of John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell's "March" trilogy.

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