Review of Grand Theft Horse, by G. Neri, illustrated by Corban Wilkin

Grand Theft Horse

by G. Neri
illustrated by Corban Wilkin

Tu Books (Lee & Low), 2018. 230 pages.
Review written July 30, 2022, from my own copy sent by the publisher
Starred Review

In this nonfiction graphic novel (or should I just say graphic nonfiction?), the author tells the amazing true story of his cousin, Gail Ruffu, who was the first person charged with Grand Theft Horse in California in 150 years.

She was acquitted of those charges, because the horse was her own — or at least she owned 20% of it — but the story is amazing, and that wasn’t the end of her troubles.

The story also sheds light on the problem of drug use and cruelty in the horse racing industry, where thoroughbreds are worked to death and their health and safety isn’t taken into account.

Gail Ruffu wanted to change that. She bought a horse, Urgent Envoy, who she thought was a winner, but could only afford to be a part owner. She thought she had the others on board for a no-drugs, patient approach.

But then they started pressuring her to race the horse before he was ready and even when he was injured. After they took her off the team, Gail learned that Urgent Envoy had a hairline fracture, but they were planning to race him anyway. If he raced, his leg would most likely break completely, and he’d be killed. So she took matters into her own hands and stole her own horse on Christmas Eve, 2004.

But she ended up suffering for that decision. Her main partner in ownership was a lawyer who eventually got her banned from the track. This is the story of her work to vindicate herself and to save the life and health of the horse she loved.

Since it’s a graphic novel, the story doesn’t take long to read — which is a good thing, because it’s compelling and not easy to stop reading.

A story of someone without power standing up to the powerful to help those who can’t speak for themselves.

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Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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