Cover image for The Georges and the Jewels / Jane Smiley ; with illustrations by Elaine Clayton.
The Georges and the Jewels / Jane Smiley ; with illustrations by Elaine Clayton.


1st ed.
Publication Information:
New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2009.
Physical Description:
232 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm
General Note:
"A Junior Library Guild selection"--Jacket flap.
Seventh-grader Abby Lovitt grows up on her family's California horse ranch in the 1960s, learning to train the horses her father sells and trying to reconcile her strict religious upbringing with her own ideas about life.
Audience/Reading Level:
Reading grade level: 5

Interest age level: 10 & up.
Added Author:


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

On Order



"A Pulitzer Prize winner makes her debut for young readers.
Jane Smiley makes her debut for young readers in this stirring novel set on a California horse ranch in the 1960s. Seventh-grader Abby Lovitt has always been more at ease with horses than with people. Her father insists they call all the mares "Jewel" and all the geldings "George" and warns Abby not to get attached: the horses are there to be sold. But with all the stress at school (the Big Four have turned against Abby and her friends) and home (her brother Danny is gone--for good, it seems--and now Daddy won't speak his name), Abby seeks refuge with the Georges and the Jewels. But there's one gelding on her family's farm that gives her no end of trouble: the horse who won't meet her gaze, the horse who bucks her right off every chance he gets, the horse her father makes her ride and train, every day. She calls him the Ornery George.

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 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Pulitzer Prize-winner Smiley's first novel for young readers is a lyrical meditation on horses, families and the vicissitudes of peer relationships among girls. Twelve-year-old Abby lives on a California horse farm with her evangelical parents. It is the mid-1960s, and references to Dusty Springfield records and portable hi-fis contrast with the pastoral setting, where the struggle is mainly between Abby and "Ornery George," one of the gelding horses (all the horses are named George or Jewel by Abby's father to eschew unnecessary attachments). A wise and kindly horse trainer eventually teaches Abby how to temper Ornery George, paralleling the nuanced lessons she learns about her relationship with her father, his fraught dealings with Abby's older brother, Danny, as well as the bullying by the "Big Four" girls at school. As might be expected from the skilled hands of Smiley (A Thousand Acres), there are additional synchronous story lines, such as the ways an unexpected and spirited colt named Jack becomes accepted into the human and horse families. Many will find it difficult to say goodbye to Abby, Jack and especially to Ornery George. Ages 10-up. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Horn Book Review

(Intermediate, Middle School) The time Abby spends riding horses is an important part of her dad's horse training business (he likes to be able to tell clients that "a little girl can ride them"), but Abby's not allowed to get attached, which is part of the reason her dad calls all the mares Jewel and all the geldings George. Abby calls one particular gelding Ornery George, though, because he seems "dedicated to bucking [her] off," and he scares her. And when a foal gets orphaned and she raises him, she demands the right to name him Jack, although her dad says that motherless foals are never good for much. The novel is about how Abby learns to work with the two horses, but it's also about Abby learning to work with her fundamentalist father, whose rigidity has already driven away her older brother, and to navigate school cliques. There are plenty of plot strands, but Smiley (in her first foray into children's books) unfolds them so naturally, with such an assured, brisk voice, that readers take them all in avidly. The sixties-era California setting subtly makes its presence known in dialogue and cultural references. Plot matter dealing with horse training philosophy and techniques will engage horse lovers -- Abby's riding skills and ability to communicate with horses are hard won, but like readers, she still has much to learn. From HORN BOOK, (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Chapter 1 Sometimes when you fall off your horse, you just don't want to get right back on. Let's say he started bucking and you did all the things you knew to do, like pull his head up from between his knees and make him go forward, then use a pulley rein on the left to stop him. Most horses would settle at that point and come down to a walk. Then you could turn him again and trot off--it's always harder for the horse to buck at the trot than at the lope. But if, right when you let up on the reins, your horse put his head between his knees again and took off bucking, kicking higher and higher until he finally dropped you and went tearing off to the other end of the ring, well, you might lie there, as I did, with the wind knocked out of you and think about how nice it would be not to get back on, because that horse is just dedicated to bucking you off. So I did lie there, looking up at the branches of the oak tree that grew beside the ring, and I did wait for Daddy to come trotting over with that horse by the bridle, and I did stare up at both their faces, the face of that horse flicking his ears back and forth and snorting a little bit, and the face of my father, red-cheeked and blue-eyed, and I did listen to him say, "Abby? You okay, honey? Sure you are. I saw you bounce! Get up, now." I sighed. "How am I going to tell those folks who are looking to buy these horses that a little girl can ride them, if you don't get up and ride them?" I sat up. I said, "I don't know, Daddy." My elbow hurt, but not too badly. Otherwise I was okay. "Well, then." I stood up, and he brushed off the back of my jeans. Then he tossed me on the horse again. Some horses buck you off. Some horses spook you off--they see something scary and drop a shoulder and spin and run away. Some horses stop all of a sudden, and there you are, head over heels and sitting on the ground. I had a horse rear so high once that I just slid down over her tail and landed in the grass easy as you please, watching her run back to the barn. I started riding when I was three. I started training horses for my dad when I was eight. I wasn't the only one--my brother, Danny, was thirteen at the time, and he did most of the riding (Kid's Horse for Sale), but I'm the only one now. Which is not to say that there aren't good horses and fun horses. I ride plenty of those, too. But they don't last, because Daddy turns those over fast. I had one a year ago, a sweet bay mare. We got her because her owner had died and Daddy picked her up for a song from the bank. I rode her every day, and she never put a foot wrong. Her lope was as easy as flying. One of the days she was with us, I had a twenty-four-hour virus, so when I went out to ride, I tacked her up and took her down to the crick at the bottom of the pasture, out of sight of the house. I knew Daddy had to go into town and would be gone for the afternoon, so when I got down there, I just took off the saddle and hung it over a tree limb, and the bridle, too, and I lay down in the grass and fell asleep. I knew she would graze, and she did for a while, I suppose. But when I woke up (and feeling much better, thank you), there she was, curled up next to me like a dog, kind of pressed against me but sweet and large and soft. I lay there feeling how warm she was and smelling her fragrance, and I thought, I never heard of this before. I don't know why she did that, but now when Daddy tells me that horses only know two things, the carrot and the stick, and not to fill my head with silly ideas about them, I just remember that mare (she had a star shaped like a triangle and a little snip down by her left nostril). We sold her for a nice piece of change within a month, and I wish I knew where she was. But Daddy names all the mares Jewel and all the geldings George, and I can hardly remember which was which after a while. The Excerpted from The Georges and the Jewels 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.