“D is for Derby: A Kentucky Derby Alphabet” by Helen L. Wilbur, illustrated by Jaime Corum
c.2014, Sleeping Bear Press $16.95 $17.95 Canada 32 pages
It was over in a blink.
You turned around, turned back, and it was done. Finished. You missed the best part, so keep your eyes peeled when you watch the horse races this spring. And in order to know what you’re watching, read the new book “D is for Derby” by Helen L. Wilbur, illustrated by Jaime Corum.
Just two minutes.
That’s about how long it takes for the Kentucky Derby, from opening gate to finish. You probably can’t think of a quicker sport, because there probably isn’t one. And in this book, the very first letter of the alphabet stands for the very first Kentucky Derby winner, Aristides, a Thoroughbred horse ridden by an African American jockey. When Aristides raced in 1875, most jockeys were black, in fact.
You might wonder why Kentucky is “The Horse Capital of the World.” It’s because the state’s “limestone-rich soil” grows grass that gives the horses good bones and strong muscles. B is for Bluegrass, which is what it’s called because the buds of the grass have a bluish tint.
Those powerful horses need people to care for them, so G is for Groom, which is the person who brushes the horse, works with him, gives him baths, and makes sure he’s “happy, healthy, handsome, and ready to race.” Of course, no horse can race without a jockey in the saddle, so J is for Jockey.
Long before the horses get to the opening gate, there’s a great celebration in Louisville. D is for Derby Festival, which includes boats, parades, fireworks, and concerts. Everyone’s excited and, on race day, they gather by the spires. The Derby attracts celebrities and royalty; even Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip have attended, which is why Q is for Queen. And wouldn’t you know that H is for Hat because wearing wild, colorful hats is a Derby tradition for women, just as wearing splashy ties and flashy clothing is tradition for men who attend the festivities.