Cover image for True Blue / Jane Smiley ; with illustrations by Elaine Clayton.
True Blue / Jane Smiley ; with illustrations by Elaine Clayton.
1st Yearling ed.
Publication Information:
New York : Yearling, 2012, c2011.
Physical Description:
297 p. : ill. ; 20 cm.
General Note:
Originally published: New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2011.
In 1960s California, Abby Lovitt has trouble with True Blue, the newest horse on her family's ranch, a beautiful dappled gray who is so often spooked, making Abby wonder if he is haunted by the ghost of his deceased former owner.
Audience/Reading Level:
Reading grade level: 6.

Interest age level: 11 up.
Added Author:


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
SMI Paperback Junior Christian Fiction
SMI Paperback Junior Christian Fiction
SMI Paperback Junior Christian Fiction

On Order



True Blue is a beauty, a dappled gray, and when Abby gets to take him to her family's ranch, she can hardly believe her luck. The horse needs a home: his owner--a woman brand new to the riding stable--was tragically killed in a car crash and no one has claimed him. Daddy is wary, as always. But Abby is smitten. True Blue is a sweetheart, and whenever Abby calls out, "Blue, Blue, how are you?" henbsp; whinnies back.

But sometimes True Blue seems . . . spooked. He paces, and always seems to be looking for something. Or someone. Filled with riding scenes and horse details, this newest middle-grade novel from a Pulitzer Prize winner offers a mysterious and suspenseful almost-ghost story.

Author Notes

Jane Smiley was born in Los Angeles, California on September 26, 1949. She received a B. A. from Vassar College in 1971 and an M.F.A. and a Ph.D from the University of Iowa. From 1981 to 1996, she taught undergraduate and graduate creative writing workshops at Iowa State University. Her books include The Age of Grief, The Greenlanders, Moo, Horse Heaven, Ordinary Love and Good Will, Some Luck, and Early Warning. In 1985, she won an O. Henry Award for her short story Lily, which was published in The Atlantic Monthly. A Thousand Acres received both the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Pulitzer Prize.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 1

Horn Book Review

True Blue, a sweet-tempered dapple gray who nonetheless spooks at everything, needs a new home after his owner is killed in a car accident. Thirteen-year-old Abby Lovitt, the earnest, horse-wise protagonist of The Georges and the Jewels (rev. 11/09) and A Good Horse (rev. 11/10), takes him on, but she breaks her arm in a fall before she can work with him. And is it Abby's imagination, or is the shadowy, dark-haired ghost of Blue's former owner following Blue around, claiming him as her own? Abby's story develops in satisfying ways, from her new job as a riding instructor (Smiley slips in lots of horse info through Abby's observations and interests) to her estranged brother's tentative reconciliation with their fundamentalist dad. The ghost motif is lightly handled, offering a few gentle chills before sunlight and practicality (introduced via Abby's growing friendship with twins Alexis and Barbie) ease her worries. It's gratifying to see good things come into the life of likable, older-than-her-years Abby and indicative of Smiley's talent that she can continue Abby's story in rewarding directions while keeping it as fresh and original as a stand-alone work. anita l. burkam (c) Copyright 2011. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Chapter 1 I had gone into the house to change my jeans, and I was only about halfway out of my boots--which were very muddy--when the phone started ringing. And it kept ringing, all the time I was pulling off my boots and hanging up my hat and pushing my hair out of my face. I was really wet--I'd been riding Happy in the arena when the rain fell out of the sky like water out of a bucket, and we were drenched so fast we just started laughing. Daddy was in the barn, and Mom jumped off of Jefferson and ran in there with him--she was right by the gate, so she didn't get as wet as I did. I could barely see my way across the ring, the water was coming down so hard. But Happy didn't care. All of our horses lived outside anyway. Rain was just a bath to them. And then it all stopped. There we were, standing in the aisle of the barn, looking out at the clouds blowing off and the sun shining through the misty air. Mom said, "Oh, I love California. The weather just comes and goes. And there are no tornadoes. I love that the best." Back in Oklahoma, where Mom and Daddy had grown up, there were tornadoes every day, or at least that's how they made it sound when they talked about it. But I had to change my jeans at least--my jacket had kept my shirt a little dry. The phone rang and rang, and I knew because of that it would be Jane Slater, and it was. Jane was a trainer at the big stable on the coast; she had helped us sell a horse there in the fall. She said, "Oh, Abby! How are you? I do so miss talking to you. What's it been?" I said, "We saw you at New Year's. How--" But she was excited about something, so she interrupted me. She said, "Then I didn't tell you that Melinda is back, did I?" "No, when . . ." "She hasn't grown an inch, and Ellen Leinsdorf thinks she's her worst enemy! Their lessons are back to back, and they're both riding Gallant Man, because, you know, there's been a big brouhaha about Melinda's parents' divorce, and they have to half lease him to the Leinsdorfs to afford the board, which is fine, but, goodness! What am I talking about?" Ellen and Melinda were two students she taught; I'd helped her with them from time to time. Melinda was older--about ten--but Ellen was tougher. I laughed to think about them and said, "I don't know." "Oh, Abby, I miss you. I feel surrounded by little little girls!" I said, "I miss you, too." "Well, why don't you come over here and look at this horse, and I can see you." "What horse?" "Such a sad story. But he's a nice horse. His name is True Blue. Very pretty dappled gray, black mane and tail, black points. Is your dad around?" Just then, Daddy came in. I handed him the phone and ran upstairs. That was the first I heard of Blue. While I was looking for a clean pair of jeans, the rain came again, and by the time it was over, the arena was too soaked to ride any more that day, because even if there was no more rain for the rest of the weekend, it would take twenty-four hours ("Only a day!" Daddy always said) for the arena to drain. This meant that our work in the winter could be a little intermittent, but at least there were no blizzards. Back in Oklahoma, whenever there weren't tornadoes, there were blizzards, and Daddy and Mom had to walk through them for hours on end to get home from school, without mittens or buttons on their coats (at least, that was what my brother, Danny, always said when they started talking about how lucky we were to be living in California). "And uphill both ways!" When he said that, I always laughed. Of course, I went to Oklahoma myself from time to time, and the weather was fine. So instead of waiting around and maybe going over to the coast "at some point" (it was a half-hour trip each way, and more than that if we were pulling the horse trailer), we decided that we had nothing better to do than go look at True Blue and then shop for groceries. We left Rusty, our dog, sitting inside the gate with that look on her face that she always had--"Don't bother to call. I've got everything under control here." The rain might have skipped the coastal part of the peninsula, because even though there wasn't a horse show, the stables were busy with lessons in all the rings, and grooms, riders, and horses were walking here and there. I looked around for my old horse Black George and that girl, Sophia Rosebury, who had bought him, but I didn't see them in any of the rings. I made myself stop looking. I had had tremendous fun on Black George for a whole year. I thought about him often, but I hadn't seen him since they'd driven away with him in the Roseburys' trailer before Thanksgiving. In fact, I was a little afraid to see him, not because I thought there would be anything wrong with him, but because I thought that seeing him would make me miss him more. Jane ran over to meet us when she saw us parking the truck in the little lot. Daddy said, "You didn't get all the rain?" Mom laughed. "We got buckets. It drove us out." "No rain," said Jane. "Just fog fog fog. Did I say fog?" She lowered her voice. "Our golfers don't allow that sort of weather disturbance around here." We all smiled. It was fun to see Jane. The horse, True Blue, was in the nicest part of the barn, and he was standing in his stall, looking out over the door toward the rings with his ears pricked. He saw Jane right away and tossed his head. She said, "He's such a sweetheart. Listen to this." We must have been about fifty feet from the stall still; she called out, "Blue! Blue! How are you?" and he let out a tremendous whinny. She said, "He always answers." "He's a poet and don't know it," said Mom. "Absolutely," said Jane. From the Hardcover edition. Excerpted from True Blue by Jane Smiley All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.