Saturday, November 23, 2019

Review - The True Story of Zippy Chippy

The True Story of Zippy Chippy: The Little Horse that Couldn't
by Artie Bennett
illustrated by Dave Szalay
Date: 2020
Publisher: NorthSouth Books
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book non-fiction
Pages: 40
Format: e-book
Source: NetGalley

A true story about the famed racehorse who lost every race but won everyone's heart. The love Zippy inspired, even when he lost, resonates with the contemporary message that whether you win or you lose-you are enough!

The bell rings and they’re off! Zippy the racehorse—descended from legends—is destined for glory, but when the other horses bolt from the gate... Zippy stands still. When people try to pet him... he bites their hats and escapes from his stall. What’s an owner to do? Keep on trying! After all, Zippy has become part of Felix’s family—and a close friend of his little daughter. And after 100 straight losses, Zippy shows everyone that—win, lose, or draw—it takes guts to compete and that you can lose and lose and still be a winner.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I usually enjoy animal biographies more than I did this one. I think part of the problem is that I felt like I was missing something for much of the time I was reading.

Zippy Chippy was one of the worst racehorses of all time. He never won a single race in his long career. But his owner kept pushing him to keep trying. Now, he holds a special place in people's hearts as a lovable loser.

Part of the problem I have with the story is that it makes it sound like Zippy Chippy didn't want to be racing at all. He'd bite his trainers, buck people off, and even just stand still after the starting bell. So Felix's perseverance started to seem like animal exploitation. Then, I was taken aback when the book referred to racing as Zippy Chippy's "passion". He apparently got depressed when he was first retired. This doesn't seem to jibe with what came before; if he really loved racing so much, why didn't he run? (In fact, he did. The author's note at the end states that he actually had a sizable number of second- and third-place finishes. The first part of the book, unfortunately, makes the horse look like he's so stubborn he refuses to run at all.)

Zippy Chippy sounds like quite the character, and I'm happy to hear that he's enjoying his retirement and celebrity at a sanctuary in New York. I just wish the book had been a little clearer about his career in the actual text; having to rely on the author's note at the end to get a clear picture of his life is a bit disappointing.

Thank you to NetGalley and NorthSouth Books for providing a digital ARC.

Premise: 3/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 4/5
Illustrations: 3/5
Originality: 3/5

Enjoyment: 2/5

Overall: 2.83 out of 5

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