________________ CM . . . . Volume XVIII Number 38 . . . . June 1, 2012


Northern Dancer: King of the Racetrack. (Larger Than Life).

Gare Joyce.
Markham, ON: Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2012.
72 pp., pbk. & hc., $9.95 (pbk.), $22.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-55041-496-7 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-55455-163-7 (hc.).

Subject Headings:
Northern Dancer (Race horse)-Juvenile literature.
Race horses-Canada-Biography-Juvenile literature.

Grades 4-8 / Ages 9-13.

Review by Tanya Boudreau.

*** /4



Northern Dancer ran his first race at the Fort Erie Racetrack on August 2, 1963. It was a five-and-a-half furlong race for two-year-old maidens (horses still looking for their first win). Eight horses competed for the $2,100 purse.

Northern Dancer's jockey was Ron Turcotte from New Brunswick. "The first time I rode Northern Dancer I knew he was something special," he later said. "He broke sluggishly but laid third most of the way. When I called on him for extra, he moved to the lead immediately but was satisfied to stay head to head with the other horse. As I was instructed not to touch him with the whip, I restrained until we were past the 16th pole, then I decided to disregard orders.

"In order not to be seen by the trainer or assistant trainer, I quickly switched the stick to my left hand and tapped him one time. To my surprise, he exploded. Within 70 yards he opened up an eight-length lead, which is what he won by."

The latest book in the "Larger than Life" series explores the extraordinary life of a Canadian racehorse born in 1961 in Oshawa, ON. Before Northern Dancer's family is introduced in chapter one, a brief introduction summarizes his life's accomplishments. The following chapters focus on the horse's training (which differed from the usual North American methods), his racing career, and the jockeys who agreed to ride Northern Dancer. Photographs, media clippings and first-person accounts capture the history of the time. Colourful sidebars of information appear in every chapter. They provide detail and context to topics such as horse injuries, racetrack auctions, and the Triple Crown. Joyce's account of Northern Dancer's life doesn't conceal the challenges and hardships he faced over his 29 years of life. His appearance wasn't impressive, he lost races and he was injured, but he had the strength and talent to surprise the people who had no hope for his future. After the thoroughbred's retirement, Northern Dancer's fame and popularity expanded because he became "the most important sire of the century". A timeline, index and glossary (no pronunciation guide) complete the book. This nonfiction book would be an excellent source of information for school papers on Canadian horses or sports legends or for those interested in recreational reading about remarkable animals. Joyce is also the author of Sidney Crosby: Taking the Game by Storm.


Tanya Boudreau is a librarian at the Cold Lake Public Library in Cold Lake, AB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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