Tuesday, March 8, 2011

That Dodger Horse by Delos W. Lovelace

177 pages
Published in 1956
by New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company

Note: This is another book that I read in 2010, but I am only now getting around to reviewing. Please pardon the delay.

As regular readers of this blog will remember I am a big fan of Maud Hart Lovelace, so much so that I host an annual Maud Hart Lovelace Reading Challenge every autumn. In the months leading up to the 2009 challenge (and during the challenge) I re-read Maud's popular and well-known Betsy-Tacy series as well as her recently republished Deep Valley series. Then in 2010 I expanded my reading to books outside the familiar and I read Gentlemen From England, a novel Maud co-wrote with her husband, Delos W. Lovelace. This in turn led me to pick up another novel by Delos, one written for young readers titled That Dodger Horse.

I am particularly intrigued with Delos, not only because he was an avid writer (journalist, biographer, and novelist), but also because he was the man that Maud loved. If she were Betsy then he was her Joe. In fact, she makes it no secret that she used many aspects of Delos when she created the character Joe Willard in her Betsy-Tacy books. And so, when I picked up That Dodger Horse and read that it was inspired by some of the adventures Delos had as a child while visiting his uncle's farm, I knew I was going to enjoy the read. It seemed exactly the type of book that Joe Willard would have written.

The Plot:
"A farm in Minnesota sounded like the end of the world to Glen. Any baseball teams there were certain to be small-town stuff, and even rumors of a tricky Morgan horse didn't intrigue him.

It was a big surprise to get out of the plan, meet Uncle Orlando, and find that Minnesota was a pretty nice place. It was a bigger surprise to find he liked the farm, and that it wasn't hard to make new friends. There was even a shortstop berth on the Grassy Point baseball team. it wasn't a bad team, either, though Otto Bolger, its star batter, seemed to dislike anyone he thought was a city slicker. It was Otto who dared glen to explore the dangers Indian Woods and got him into bad trouble.

The best part of the summer came with Dodger. Uncle Orlando bought the Dodger horse, a horse everybody knew you couldn't trust because he was so full of mischief. No doubt about it, Dodger was an extraordinary animal. He proved it that disastrous summer afternoon when the dark, whirling tornado hit.

From start to finish, it was an unusual vacation. By September Glen has changed a lot of his ideas. And those who read this lively, entertaining story will agree with Glen that a summer in the country with that Dodger horse is about the best thing that could happen to anyone." (Summary courtesy of the publisher.)
My Thoughts:
That Dodger Horse is a charming story filled with the innocent and fun loving adventures typical of children from my father's generation. As I read I could imagine my dad, as a young boy in the 50s and 60s, doing many of the same things -- playing baseball or dropping off a rope swing into a fishing hole or maybe exploring nearby woods with one of his friends.

The only drawback is that the book is a little dated, but that is to be expected of a book that is nearly 60 years old. The obvious difference is with the language (i.e. vocabulary, slang, a turn of phrase, etc.) are clearly from a different time, but rather than finding them hokey, I felt they made the story that much more interesting and fun for me to read. The only objectionable scene that I can remember is after Glen disobeys his uncle, which nearly results in some terrible consequences. To some this part of the story may be objectionable, but I believe taken in context of the time and place where the story is set it doesn't darken the story and perhaps a lesson can be learned by more then Glen.

Overall That Dodger Horse was a light and entertaining read and I am glad I tracked down a copy (even if it is a slightly marred library discard). I think, depending on the reader, That Dodger Horse could easily be enjoyed by young and old readers alike. Yes, the clothing styles and turn of phrases have changed, but the love for adventure that is born in every child's heart remains the same from generation to generation.

Related Links:

If you like the sound of That Dodger Horse then be sure to check out a few other titles that you might likewise enjoy:

* Follow My Leader by James B. Garfield

* A Dog Called Scholar by Ann H. White
* Homer Price
by Robert McCloskey (reviewed)
* Henry Huggens by Beverly Cleary
* Smoky, The Cow Horse by Will James (reviewed)
* My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craigshead George (reviewed)
* The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy by Jeanne Birdsall (reviewed)
* Mr. Wilmer by Robert Lawson (reviewed)
* Freddy Goes to Florida by Walter R. Brooks (reviewed)

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