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Behind the Scenes: The Racehorse

by Nikki Tate

Nikki Tate is the award-winning author of many novels for young people, including the popular StableMates series. In this detailed, attractive guide to the world of horse racing, she demonstrates not only her extensive knowledge of horses but also her obvious love for them.

The challenge of any non-fiction book is how to present information in a way that is easily accessible to readers but still offers a visually appealing reading experience. While some books employ a variety of illustrative techniques, this one keeps it simple. The text is laid out in short sections introduced by clear headings, and lots of shaded text boxes augment the material under discussion. Young researchers may find the index and other resources useful, especially the list of websites and the names of racing organizations.

The content is readily accessible, but it’s the vivid photographs that will catch the reader’s attention. Illustrations of horses in action, the equipment and tools of the trade, and some of the people who devote their lives to the racing life appear on almost every page of this book. The variety is impressive: a huge pile of manure gets just as much attention as six sulkie drivers racing around the track in their bright colours.

It’s not all glamour in the world of horse racing, and Tate is careful to stick to a factual tone of voice as she examines everything from the sport’s history to racing terminology to the difficult life of a jockey. She even addresses some of racing’s dark side, including animal abuse, drugs, and cheating. Tate is equally careful not to gush over the excitement and devotion that draw people to this world. Her knowledge and obvious enthusiasm shine through on every colourful, fact-filled page.