Raja is a very, very good book. It's definitely one of my favorite horse books - and I have read a lot of them!
It tells the story of a horse named Raja who becomes a race horse, but then has to leave the word of racing. It gives you a very good idea of some of the real life experiences of many race horses. It's heartbreaking at times but also wonderful at others. I couldn't put it down. I would definitely recommend it!
The author, Anne Hambleton, is a horsecrazy girl herself. She sent me an advance copy of the book and told me some background behind it: Raja is written specifically for an 11-12 year old horse loving kid (boys, too!). In the course of writing this I have had over 30 "junior editors" read and comment. I am an overall horse person (event rider, ex-steeplechase jockey, pony club graduate "A", etc.) and I run a summer steeplechase clinic for young riders and blog on Thoroughbred retirement on HorseCollaborative - a new equine web community.
I wrote RAJA to be an engaging and authentic "modern day Black Beauty". My five ex-racehorses that are now all competing in eventing, jumpers, and dressage inspired me. Only part of RAJA is about racing. It's really more of a tour through several horse worlds (racing, Jumpers, police horses, Steeplechasing) and a book about the random lives of horses - sort of a "modern day Black Beauty". It is also about perseverance, overcoming fear and second and third chances.
The book touches on thoroughbred retirement/rescue and horse slaughter and the scene on the meat truck IS a little intense but all true - I spent time with several thoroughbred rescue groups and at New Holland auction. Raja meets both good and bad trainers in the racing and H/J worlds.
Anne also told met that she has ridden in all of the steeplechase races in the book (and won the point to points!). She "borrowed" personalities for most of the characters from real horses she knows; Shaddy, Sanchez, Holzmann, Prism, Rather Be, Luna, Oliver, Snickers, etc. and all of the horse/dog names are "cameos" of real horses/dogs that she knows. The horse rescue group is based on a real group - Mid Atlantic Horse Rescue - in Maryland.