The Night Ride

by J Anderson Coats (Author)

Reading Level: 4th – 5th Grade
The Black Stallion meets Tamora Pierce in this adventure-filled middle grade novel about a young stable girl who discovers a secret that endangers her beloved horse and threatens her future. Sonnia loves horses more than anything. She works at her family's struggling pony ride business but dreams of the beautiful steeds in the royal stables, especially Ricochet, who she's been slowly saving money to buy--even though she knows people from her impoverished neighborhood are rarely so lucky. Then Ricochet is moved to the racetrack across town, and Sonnia lands a job there. Now, she can see Ricochet every day and earn enough money to buy him in no time--all while helping her family with her new wages! She even joins the junior racing cadre to train to become a jockey. But then she uncovers their secret pastime: competing in the Night Ride, a dangerous and highly illegal race in the darkest hours before dawn. Every race puts the horses at risk. Sonnia wants to protect the horses she's grown to care for, but she's only a kid from the poor side of town--considered expendable, just like the horses. If she just keeps her head down, soon she can buy Ricochet and get him out of there--and keep supporting her family. But would she be able to live with herself?

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Kirkus Reviews

Engaging, true-to-life horse content will satisfy many. (Fiction. 8-12)

Copyright 2021 Kirkus Reviews, LLC Used with permission

Publishers Weekly

In the loosely medieval kingdom of Mael Dunn, the royal horses are cared for by men and boys "from families who have been taking care of for generations." Though her brother lucked into a position at the royal stables, Sonnia, both a poor "lane kid" and a girl, has little hope of a future involving the animals. She nevertheless saves all her money to one day buy her favorite horse, Ricochet, and spends her afternoons grooming and riding him. When she learns that Ricochet will be relocated to the racetrack across town, she follows, and a chance encounter lands Sonnia a job as a racetrack stablehand. Sonnia adores working with the horses, and the job seems to pay well, but she's horrified to discover that the other stablehands compete for large sums in a dangerous and illegal nighttime race--a Night Ride that she reluctantly enters, intent on helping her parents and saving to buy Ricochet. Though the kingdom's class structure and the titular event's gambling particulars are left mostly undeveloped, Coats's (The Green Children of Woolpit) fast-paced tale with a largely default-white cast absorbs with meticulously observed horsey details and a tender interspecies relationship. Ages 8-12. Agent: Ammi-Joan Paquette, Erin Murphy Literary. (Oct.)

Copyright 2021 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

"Sonnia is an engaging character with grit and determination. . . Engaging, true-to-life horse content will satisfy many." —Kirkus Reviews
J Anderson Coats
J. Anderson Coats has master's degrees in history and library science and has published short stories in numerous literary magazines and anthologies. She is the author of the acclaimed novels The Wicked and the Just, The Many Reflections of Miss Jane Deming, R Is for Rebel, The Green Children of Woolpit, and The Night Ride. She lives with her family in Washington State. Visit her at
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Publication date
October 20, 2021

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