The Eighty-Dollar Champion: The True Story of a Horse, a Man, and an Unstoppable Dream

Delacorte. Dec. 2020. 272p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780593127124.
Gr 7 Up–Lett’s adaptation of her 2011 adult nonfiction title chronicles the rise of white Dutch immigrant and horseback riding teacher Harry de Leyer and his champion horse, Snowman. In the winter of 1956, Snowman was about to be put down. A young de Leyer recognized something special in the horse and bought him for 80 dollars. Snowman’s first job was to be a lesson horse at the Knox School, an expensive all-girls boarding school on Long Island, NY. Later, de Leyer sold Snowman to a local doctor who needed a riding horse for his 12-year-old son. However, Snowman kept jumping the fence and returning to de Leyer’s stables. He quickly realized that this ex-plow horse could jump. Snowman and de Leyer started competitively jumping. They eventually won first-place ribbons from national competitions, claiming victory against the best and most expensive adversaries money could buy. The aging champion managed to keep his place as the jumper to beat for a few more years until he retired. This title is not a fast-paced read, and the repetition of contest after contest does not make this book a good fit for struggling readers or those who get bored easily. The sweetness of the relationship between Snowman and de Leyer is the driving force behind the narrative.
VERDICT Some readers may find this book a little dry, but Letts ultimately crafts a well-written and touching story of a man, his horse, and all they managed to accomplish together.

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