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The Eighty-Dollar Champion: Snowman, the Horse That Inspired a Nation PDF, ePub eBook


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Title: The Eighty-Dollar Champion: Snowman, the Horse That Inspired a Nation
Author: Elizabeth Letts
Publisher: Published August 23rd 2011 by Ballantine Books (first published January 1st 2011)
ISBN: 9780345521088
Status : FREE Rating :
4.6 out of 5

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#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER November 1958: the National Horse Show at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Into the rarefied atmosphere of wealth and tradition comes the most unlikely of horses—a drab white former plow horse named Snowman—and his rider, Harry de Leyer. They were the longest of all longshots—and their win was the stuff of legend.   Harry de Leyer first saw #1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER November 1958: the National Horse Show at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Into the rarefied atmosphere of wealth and tradition comes the most unlikely of horses—a drab white former plow horse named Snowman—and his rider, Harry de Leyer. They were the longest of all longshots—and their win was the stuff of legend.   Harry de Leyer first saw the horse he would name Snowman on a bleak winter afternoon between the slats of a rickety truck bound for the slaughterhouse. He recognized the spark in the eye of the beaten-up horse and bought him for eighty dollars. On Harry’s modest farm on Long Island, the horse thrived. But the recent Dutch immigrant and his growing family needed money, and Harry was always on the lookout for the perfect thoroughbred to train for the show-jumping circuit—so he reluctantly sold Snowman to a farm a few miles down the road.   But Snowman had other ideas about what Harry needed. When he turned up back at Harry’s barn, dragging an old tire and a broken fence board, Harry knew that he had misjudged the horse. And so he set about teaching this shaggy, easygoing horse how to fly. One show at a time, against extraordinary odds and some of the most expensive thoroughbreds alive, the pair climbed to the very top of the sport of show jumping.   Here is the dramatic and inspiring rise to stardom of an unlikely duo, based on the insight and recollections of “the Flying Dutchman” himself. Their story captured the heart of Cold War–era America—a story of unstoppable hope, inconceivable dreams, and the chance to have it all. Elizabeth Letts’s message is simple: Never give up, even when the obstacles seem sky-high. There is something extraordinary in all of us.

30 review for The Eighty-Dollar Champion: Snowman, the Horse That Inspired a Nation

  1. 5 out of 5

    Midwest Geek

    There is a great story here, but you won't find it in this book. This author is not a good writer; what else can I say? What a disappointment after all the rave reviews! Chapters were repetitive, even using the same sentimental phrases, flashbacks, and allusions time and time again. The author really could have benefitted from a strong editor. As if the story didn't tell itself, we are told ad nauseum how we ought to feel. In effusive language, we read what a remarkable story we are being told! H There is a great story here, but you won't find it in this book. This author is not a good writer; what else can I say? What a disappointment after all the rave reviews! Chapters were repetitive, even using the same sentimental phrases, flashbacks, and allusions time and time again. The author really could have benefitted from a strong editor. As if the story didn't tell itself, we are told ad nauseum how we ought to feel. In effusive language, we read what a remarkable story we are being told! Harry de Leyer worked hard at menial tasks that are described in detail, but how does he actually train horses? You don't learn anything about the methods or techniques Harry used. There is no excuse for the lack of detail since Harry is still alive and apparently granted the author unlimited access. As for Snowman, it is as if the horse trained himself. What you will learn, repeatedly, is that Harry just talked to the horse, and the horse flicked his ears and did what he was asked. Maybe in the hands of a skilled screenwriter, the book could be turned into a decent movie, but is there really enough material even for that? On the human side, Harry was portrayed as a simple, hard-working, devoted family man, with a like-minded wife Johanna who bore them eight children. Yet suddenly in summarizing the period from Snowman's death in 1974 until the present day, we find that they got divorced. I listened to the book, but it wasn't the narrator's fault. He did about as well as one could, given the material.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Wendy

    A decent story of a horse who was rescued from a kill pen truck and turned into a champion show jumper. Sounds like a great read, but it was unfortunately poorly written. While the author obviously did her research, she crammed a lot of unnecessary and irrelevant information in the book. My hard cover copy is 280 pages and could easily have been 180. She also jumps around chronologically so at times I found myself lost. She was very repetitive, constantly reminding the reader of tiny, barely sig A decent story of a horse who was rescued from a kill pen truck and turned into a champion show jumper. Sounds like a great read, but it was unfortunately poorly written. While the author obviously did her research, she crammed a lot of unnecessary and irrelevant information in the book. My hard cover copy is 280 pages and could easily have been 180. She also jumps around chronologically so at times I found myself lost. She was very repetitive, constantly reminding the reader of tiny, barely significant details. Not consistent either, she jumped back and forth between the story of the horse and the story of the rider. It's a shame, it could definitely have been a good read with some better editing. It's not the best rags to riches horse story out there but it's a worthwhile one to tell. ETA: I'm a horse person and I still couldn't enjoy this book, I think that made it frustrating.

  3. 5 out of 5

    M.L.

    On an icy morning in February 1956, Harry De Leyer, a Dutch immigrant with a young family, is hoping to buy a horse at auction, but his car breaks down. When he arrives, the only horses left are the "kills" - already loaded onto the truck bound for the slaughter house. The horses are skittish and afraid, they know. Only the beat-up looking gray horse is calm and not taken by the understandable air of desperation. Harry - himself a survivor of a slaughter house machine - the Nazi occupation of h On an icy morning in February 1956, Harry De Leyer, a Dutch immigrant with a young family, is hoping to buy a horse at auction, but his car breaks down. When he arrives, the only horses left are the "kills" - already loaded onto the truck bound for the slaughter house. The horses are skittish and afraid, they know. Only the beat-up looking gray horse is calm and not taken by the understandable air of desperation. Harry - himself a survivor of a slaughter house machine - the Nazi occupation of his Dutch village - returns home with the worn down horse. His young family happily makes the horse their own, naming him "Snowman" and returning him to good health. Happy ending of story? No, just the beginning as small discoveries lead to larger ones. Snowman's gentle nature makes him perfect for small children and he is soon carrying even the most timid of riding students. But it's his stubborn nature and love of jumping that causes him to leap paddock fences. Snowman returns home dragging a car tire and fence railing in his wake, giving Harry the first inkling that this horse likes to jump. However, the usual training does not work - and Snowman trips and stumbles over the smallest obstacles - until Harry discovers that what the horse really likes is not little obstacles but big ones. This is the most unlikely story - and just as it takes perfect timing and skill to jump 4, 5, 6 foot obstacles - it takes perfect timing of events, and right decisions for the right reasons, to lead Harry from his war ravaged village in Holland to the place where his life and that of his noble horse Snowman intersect and remain forever. It's the kind of story that if it were imaginary would spring from a desire that such things really do exist - where human and animal share an unbreakable bond of trust and loyalty; where money cannot buy everything and is turned down; and where against all odds and with sheer determination a cast-off horse and a hard-working immigrant become a legend. This is the true story of Snowman, told with energy, empathy and illuminated with the turbulent social context reflective of the times.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Barb

    I was very eager to read this story. I thought it was going to be a heart-warming story about a Dutch immigrant and his relationship with the horse he rescued from the knacker. I should disclose that I am not a horse person but I am an animal lover. I recently read 'Beautiful Jim Key: The Lost History of the World's Smartest Horse' by Mim Rivas which I loved. And I hoped this would be a similarly heartwarming story about a man and his horse. Unfortunately what could have been a great story was i I was very eager to read this story. I thought it was going to be a heart-warming story about a Dutch immigrant and his relationship with the horse he rescued from the knacker. I should disclose that I am not a horse person but I am an animal lover. I recently read 'Beautiful Jim Key: The Lost History of the World's Smartest Horse' by Mim Rivas which I loved. And I hoped this would be a similarly heartwarming story about a man and his horse. Unfortunately what could have been a great story was instead a dull and redundant story with a glut of horsey-world details told in a simplistic narrative style. The author is unable to paint a compelling portrait of either man or horse. Letts sprinkles the interesting bits of Harry de Leyer's life throughout the book, instead of building his character into something cohesive for the reader, this style seems to dilute the man and his accomplishments. The same can be said for the horse, Snowman was clearly a special horse and he shared a strong bond with Harry de Leyer but reading this story I never felt that connection. Letts tells the reader nearly ad nauseam that Harry wanted to be his own man, that Snowman cleans up nicely but is no beauty and that Harry knew better than to be sentimental about a horse. I would have preferred less telling and more showing in all aspects of this story. While the horsey-world details on show jumping and competitions are relevant to the story the quantity was overwhelming for the general reader. The author's tendency to try to tell the whole story all at once was also overwhelming and more than halfway into the book I still didn't feel like I had any real sense of Harry de Leyer as a man or of Snowman as a horse. Their personalities just never came through. Overall a disappointing telling of what could have been a fabulous story.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Peg

    When I found this book at Costco, I knew I had to buy it. Harry de Leyer is an immigrant who, along with his wife Johanna, left Holland after WWII, having survived the Nazi occupation of their homeland. They came, as did many others, seeking the opportunity and freedom of the United States. Relegated to menial jobs, Harry was eventually able to use his experience and expertise with horses to secure a job as the instructor for equestrian activities at a prestigious girls' school on Long Island. T When I found this book at Costco, I knew I had to buy it. Harry de Leyer is an immigrant who, along with his wife Johanna, left Holland after WWII, having survived the Nazi occupation of their homeland. They came, as did many others, seeking the opportunity and freedom of the United States. Relegated to menial jobs, Harry was eventually able to use his experience and expertise with horses to secure a job as the instructor for equestrian activities at a prestigious girls' school on Long Island. This true story opens with Harry showing up late for the day's bidding on horses at New Holland, a weekly auction in the PA Dutch country. No horses are left except those that are already loaded into a truck that will take them off to the "glue factory." A "moment" passes between Harry and a big gray waiting in the bed of the van. Although the horse is undernourished and has obviously been used as a plow horse, something pulls at Harry and he offers the driver $80 for the animal. Once back at his small farm on Long island, Harry spends time caring for the horse, healing the sores caused by pulling the plow, trimming his feet that were overgrown and cleaning his coat until it reflected the horse's improving health. Eventually the horse is put to work, as a lesson horse for the girls at the school. Summer comes and the students go home. Harry can't afford to feed the horse while it is not being used, so he sells the animal for $160 to a doctor who has a farm down the road. The horse is thoroughly quiet and perfectly suited to the doctor's child who is just beginning to ride. All is well until the horse starts showing up at Harry's farm. Gates and fences are checked, but ultimately all realize that the big gray horse is jumping the various obstacles and returning to Harry's farm. The new owner is finally ready to be rid of the horse who won't stay where he is put and Harry once again owns the horse who is known as Snowman. As the story unfolds, Snowman becomes, against all odds, a champion open jumper who wins many of the top competitions in the late 1950's and early 60's. He is jumping against horses well known both on the national and international show circuit. The reason that I had to buy the book, aside from the obvious, is that as a teenager my parents took our family to the Pa National Horse Show every year. This was one of the shows where Snowman competed. I remember seeing him several times, along with one of his arch rivals, Windsor Castle among others. Also the book details the riders and horses that competed for the US and other national equestrian teams. I loved the pageantry and white-knuckled excitement as these beautiful animals soared over the most daunting and seemingly impossible jumps. The author has written an very interesting book, but is a bit heavy handed when it comes to driving home such themes as the contrast between Snowman, the plow horse, and the highly refined and expensive thoroughbreds that were his competition. She also repeatedly emphasizes the difference between old money and the status of immigrants, as well as Harry's wartime experiences and Snowman's near end after the auction. If the author had been a bit more deft in portraying these very real differences, I would be tempted to give the book a 5 star rating. A final note: One of the facts that I enjoyed most was that between competitive seasons, Snowman returned to the riding school and was a favorite of so many of the students who were just learning to ride. His calm demeanor and ability to care for his riders, in addition to his fantastic ability to fly over the most daunting fences, made him one of a kind.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Brenda Knight

    I have loved horses my whole life. I read mostly westerns or horse stories right through high school. I can't believe I never heard about this amazing horse. As soon as I read the cover, I knew I HAD to have and read this book. I truely enjoyed the whole story. I really appreciated all of the photographs in the book also. It made me feel as if I knew the characters personally. Harry was an absolute natural with horses. He connected with them on a deeply personal level. I would have loved to watc I have loved horses my whole life. I read mostly westerns or horse stories right through high school. I can't believe I never heard about this amazing horse. As soon as I read the cover, I knew I HAD to have and read this book. I truely enjoyed the whole story. I really appreciated all of the photographs in the book also. It made me feel as if I knew the characters personally. Harry was an absolute natural with horses. He connected with them on a deeply personal level. I would have loved to watch Snowman perform and to have met him and Harry. If you love horses, or love to see the underdog win (repeatedly) this book is a must read. When I finished reading, I loaned it to my mother. She also loves horses. The interesting thing is, my father has never had much use for a horse. He always said that horses were nothing but expensive hayburners. Well, my mother is reading this story to my father, and he is loving every minute of it! So, you don't have to love, or even like horses, to enjoy this book. A GREAT read.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Connie

    4.5 stars Harry DeLeyer saw something in the big grey plowhorse and took a chance on him. Snowman spent his life repaying that belief and never let the quiet man down. Together they chased their dreams and learned to fly together. A true story of determination and a lot of heart this book takes you back to a time when horse shows were for the elite.This unlikely pair break into that world and capture the heart of nation who needed someone to root for. Harry and Snowman become heroes, a team that 4.5 stars Harry DeLeyer saw something in the big grey plowhorse and took a chance on him. Snowman spent his life repaying that belief and never let the quiet man down. Together they chased their dreams and learned to fly together. A true story of determination and a lot of heart this book takes you back to a time when horse shows were for the elite.This unlikely pair break into that world and capture the heart of nation who needed someone to root for. Harry and Snowman become heroes, a team that a nation pinned there hopes on. Though they were champions, the core of this story is the relationship between the man and the horse. A must read for any horse lover, and a highly recommended read for anyone who wants a feel good story.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    This is not just a book, it is a story - a true story - about a man who picked a horse from a truck bound for the slaughter house, purchased him for eighty dollars in 1956, and went on win the National Horse Show open jumper championship at Madison Square Garden in 1958. The horse, nicknamed Snowman, was an old plow horse - big, gray and gentle. The man, Harry de Leyer, an immigrant from Holland, began using the horse for lessons at an all girls boarding school. He was a gentle, predictable and s This is not just a book, it is a story - a true story - about a man who picked a horse from a truck bound for the slaughter house, purchased him for eighty dollars in 1956, and went on win the National Horse Show open jumper championship at Madison Square Garden in 1958. The horse, nicknamed Snowman, was an old plow horse - big, gray and gentle. The man, Harry de Leyer, an immigrant from Holland, began using the horse for lessons at an all girls boarding school. He was a gentle, predictable and safe ride for the girls, but one they felt proud to surpass for the flashy, higher strung horses in the barn. He tried to teach the horse to jump by asking him to step over poles barely off the ground, but the horse knocked his feet on them every time. A while later, hard times prompted Harry to sell Snowman to a man down the road for $160. But the horse returned to Harry by jumping the pasture fence. This continued day after day until the new owner was so fed up with the 'jumper' that Harry sold him, that Harry bought Snowman back. At one point, the man told Harry he had promised the man a quiet horse and instead sold him an overpriced jumped. Harry responded by saying 'had he known he was a jumper, he would have charged the man more.' Harry put Snowman back in the barn at the school as a lesson horse, but began working with Snowman at jumping. He cleared five-foot fences with little effort at all! Snowman excelled so much and so effortlessly that Harry began entering Snowman in shows - putting the big eighty-dollar gray ex-plow horse up against the country's top horses - lean, expensive, and hot-blooded - and rode Snowman himself. Harry and Snowman were quite a sight, compared to the other riders and owners, and they were laughed at early on. But as the big horse began winning ribbons and trophies, he quickly gained notoriety as the 'Cinderella Horse', and Harry as 'the Flying Dutchman'. Everyone was fascinated with the unlikely pair who rose from nothing to champions in only a few years time. The book is chocked full of history - of Harry and his life in Holland before coming to America, and of horses - helping readers to understand where Harry came from and what the horse world is really like. It is told in great detail, and the writing is excellent. Elizabeth Letts ties the story together with truth and emotion. But the real story, the one that touched me, is the story of a bond between a horse and the man who chose him because he 'saw something in his eyes'. It is the story of a man who loved and trusted a horse, and a horse who loved and aimed to please the man. It is the story of a horse who flicked his ears back to hear the man speak just before he entered the show ring. The story of a man who jumped a horse on a loose rein to communicate trust to the horse. Of a man who refused to sell the horse after his championship win for a blank check. Of a man who took off his riding clothes after a show and stepped into his coveralls to do chores and care for his home and horses. Of a horse who carried the man's children on his back - three and four at a time - to the beach and swam in the water with them on his back. A horse who continued to earn his keep as a dependable lesson horse, even after he won the highest honor bestowable on a horse. A horse who would run and jump a course -without a rider on his back! A horse who jumped over a ribbon at his retirement celebration at Madison Square Garden, instead of running through it. A horse who whined three times in greeting each morning when the man entered the barn. And of a horse who, when his time came - after the first morning of his life he had not issued the three whiny greeting - wouldn't move from his stall without the man leading him to take his final breath. And a man so affected by the loss he walked away from the grave and didn't return for two days. It is a beautiful story of a bond between an animal and a human, which is something we can all relate to. And it is the story of a horse who rose to greatness because of a patient and loving horseman. Before the Horse Whisperer, or Clinton Anderson, there was Harry de Leyer. His way with horses is legend, and he is still alive today - now known as the 'Galloping Grandfather' - and rides despite falling from a haystack on his head and breaking his back in several places.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Tanja Berg

    I knew some of the story of "Snowman" the plough horse turned champion from before. I believe it was a cartoon in some horse magazine I read as a child, and one of those stories with enough substance to be remembered. When this book came out, I ordered it immediately. Then it just sat there in my shelf, eyeing me accusingly. Finally, after several years, I decided to read it since I wasn't getting anywhere with Kate Atkinson. After reading the first few pages, I knew I would love it. It was eleg I knew some of the story of "Snowman" the plough horse turned champion from before. I believe it was a cartoon in some horse magazine I read as a child, and one of those stories with enough substance to be remembered. When this book came out, I ordered it immediately. Then it just sat there in my shelf, eyeing me accusingly. Finally, after several years, I decided to read it since I wasn't getting anywhere with Kate Atkinson. After reading the first few pages, I knew I would love it. It was elegantly written and the story was well-fleshed out. I was informed about the changing farming in the United States, the diminishing role of the horse and the great surplus of horses that existed in the 1950's. Quite soon there was a nostalgic feel about horses disappearing from streets. However, somewhere in the book there is mentioned that now that only people who like horses keep them, it is far better for the horse. Only a hundred years ago, the horse was still the main transportation method. Harry de Leyer moved the United States with his wife Johanna from the Netherlands. He had intended to be a farm hand, but his true passion was working with horses. Eventually he got a job at a riding school and also started buying and selling his own horses. One of the horses he picked up, "Snowman", was destined for dog food. Harry took him in, taught him to be a riding horse, and then sold him again. However, Snowman didn't accept this. He kept coming home, eventhough it meant jumping fences. His new owner got fed up and Harry bought Snowman back and started to train him as a show jumper. It's a "rags to riches" story, a black swan, the sort of unlikely event everyone loves. Snowman's achviements went straight to the heart of the average American. Here was a creature who truly beat the odds. A total anomaly - big-boned, calm - among the high-strung horses he competed against. The show-jumping sport has changed a great deal since the 1950's. I would say it is highly unlikely that something like this could happen again - that a horse with no "blood" would be able to reach the upper echelons of the sport. This doesn't make Snowman's achievements in the 1950's to a poor Dutch immigrant any less astounding. The show-jumping was a sport for the rich even then. A book recommended for any horse-lover! Well-written, great story, loveable characters. Particularly Snowman the horse, but also his owner, Harry, who refused to sell his ward again despite the fortunes offered for him.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Judy

    I'm no horse jumping guru or even fan, but who can pass up a well-written story about a lovable animal who just missed the knackers? Not me. And I was not disappointed. I looked forward to listening to this audiobook each evening. I had no idea that the famous Flying Dutchman referred to Snowman's rider and owner. The story also chronicles how competitive horse events went from small payouts to large payouts within a couple years. I recommend to animal-loving readers. Easy read, not very long.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Donna

    This was a free book from the GoodReads First Read Giveaway. It is the story about a four legged hero named Snowman and his owner Harry de Leyer. Not only is it a heart warming story about the special bond between the two but it is also a true story that gives historical facts that are quite interesting (especially if you are from Suffolk County, NY). I highly recommend it to anyone that loves history, a good story and most of all, horses.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Lea

    I won this in a GoodReads giveaway! This is an advance uncorrected proof, so, although there were minor errors in the editing, I will not be judging those -- I'm sure they'll be fixed in the official release. This book was just great. It has anything you could want in a book -- overcoming adversity, life and death situations, achieving your dreams through hard work and a bit of luck, and horses! As anyone who knows me can tell you, I love horses. They were the biggest (and best) part of my life for I won this in a GoodReads giveaway! This is an advance uncorrected proof, so, although there were minor errors in the editing, I will not be judging those -- I'm sure they'll be fixed in the official release. This book was just great. It has anything you could want in a book -- overcoming adversity, life and death situations, achieving your dreams through hard work and a bit of luck, and horses! As anyone who knows me can tell you, I love horses. They were the biggest (and best) part of my life for 20+ years, and I've recently had the good fortune to be able to be around them again. So I am admittedly the ideal audience for this book! In 1956, Harry DeLeyer was a struggling horse trainer and riding instructor when he made the fateful decision to attend the New Holland horse auction in hopes of finding a reliable lesson horse. Due to numerous problems on the long drive to the auction, Harry arrived after all the trading was done, finding only the kill buyer -- the buyer for the slaughter house -- still at the auction grounds. Unwilling to return home from the long trip empty handed, he requested a look at the ragtag collection of spent horses, hoping against hope to find one that would be sound enough to suit his needs. Against all odds, one horse stood out as a possibility -- a battered old plow horse, thin and worn, but with a calm manner and a certain spark in his eye. Tell me that doesn't grab your attention -- a worn out horse, snatched from the brink of death?! But wait! It gets better! Harry's perseverance with the old horse -- christened Snowman by the DeLeyer children -- pays off, and with good food and good care Snowman becomes an ideal lesson horse, whose calm manner coaxes even the most timid riders into enjoying themselves. Time goes by and Harry needs to make a choice -- employed only during the school year, he can't maintain a barnful of horses that aren't working, so he decides to sell a few during the summer to lighten his financial burden. When he meets a man who needs a quiet, dependable horse for his son, Harry recommends Snowman, and the deal is done. Which pleases everyone except Snowman. His reaction to leaving Harry's farm sets in motion an incredible and amazing chain of events that catapults Snowman into the show jumping spotlight, and makes him and the DeLeyers international celebrities. This is truly a rags to riches story, and I found it unbelievably heart warming. I'll admit that I cried a few times, too. Elizabeth Letts does a wonderful job describing America of the late 1950s, especially the lifestyle of monied New Yorkers at that time. Harry Deleyer and his unlikely showhorse are fish out of water in this rarified world. Now, this book isn't perfect, although I certainly wanted it to be. There were times when the author left some loose ends for me to puzzle over -- she mentions Mr. DeLeyer selling Snowman, but we have to wait some time for her to mention the exact circumstances of the Deleyers coming to own him again. I felt it would have been better to add just a sentence or two to make it perfectly clear what happened, rather than mentioning it several chapters later. Ms. Letts relies all too often on a few favourite phrases, referring to Snowman over and over again as a "plow horse", and commenting on Harry DeLeyer's handsomeness or calling him the "Flying Dutchman". None of those are problems when used once or twice, but to use those phrases nearly every time the subjects are mentioned becomes tiresome. At other times the author drops in details seemingly at random, calling Snowman "Snowy" or "Teddy Bear", which apparently were nicknames used by the DeLeyer family. I'm possibly nitpicking a bit much on this point, but I find it annoying when writers do this. There is also the author's unfailingly positive portrayal of Mr. DeLeyer -- oh how I want to believe he really was (and is) as wonderful as he seems in this book, strong and brave and loyal and true, but experience tells me that he most assuredly had a flaw or two. I'm actually on the fence about whether or not I would really want to about know Harry DeLeyer's dark side, if he has one, but it makes it difficult to believe every aspect of the story when he's shown in only a positive light. My other issue with the book is slightly unfair -- my copy, being just a proof, had very poor picture quality, so it was difficult to see the details in the numerous photographs that are included in the book. Again, this is simply an issue with the uncorrected proof, and I'm sure the actual book will have much better picture quality. Even with those quibbles, this is a really inspiring story. When I started reading it, I hoped it would be as good as Laura Hillenbrand's amazing Seabiscuit: An American Legend, one of the best books ever written. It did fall a bit short of that goal for me, but not by much. The story is certainly on par with Seabiscuit's similar tale of overcoming the odds. I found the writing to be less polished than Ms. Hillenbrand's, although it doesn't detract overly from the tale. I would highly recommend this book for fans of horse books or fans of underdog stories. I'm thrilled I had the good luck to be able to read it before it even came out in the stores, and I will be buying a copy when it does.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Kristin

    The Eighty-Dollar Champion: Snowman, the Horse that Inspired a Nation is about a man and a horse. I know, that sounds super corny and we’ve heard that said a million times about a man and a fill-in-the-blank. But this really is. First, let me say that I am not a fan of the horse industry. Horses used for sport, and animals in general, are too often treated as throwaways (former Kentucky Derby winner, Ferdinand, was sold for human consumption in Japan in 2002) and suffer catastrophic injuries (rem The Eighty-Dollar Champion: Snowman, the Horse that Inspired a Nation is about a man and a horse. I know, that sounds super corny and we’ve heard that said a million times about a man and a fill-in-the-blank. But this really is. First, let me say that I am not a fan of the horse industry. Horses used for sport, and animals in general, are too often treated as throwaways (former Kentucky Derby winner, Ferdinand, was sold for human consumption in Japan in 2002) and suffer catastrophic injuries (remember Barbaro?). The fact that this book is actually about a horse that was on the truck ready for the slaughterhouse before he was rescued and a well-known and much loved horse has to be killed in the jumping ring serve to highlight my problems with these sports and the horse industry. In the book, the owners who sold a famous horse during the middle of a show stated that they weren’t sentimentally attached to the horse, it was just business. Well, one of the reasons I loved this book so much was that for Harry De Leyer, it wasn’t just business. He’d survived Nazi occupation of his country, Holland, during World War II, never realized his dreams of representing his country at the Olympics or on the competitive horse circuit and gave up his chance to work his family farm in order to help his younger brother. Then, in 1950, in order to create a better life for himself, he decided to move to America, bringing his young wife, Johanna, with him. He even gave up working with animals and riding when he first came to the United States, instead working on a tobacco farm in an effort to provide for his family, though he eventually found a way to do the thing he loved most, ride horses. So Harry knew about hardship and the desire to fulfill your dreams. And when he saw a dirty gray plow horse standing calmly on a slaughterhouse-bound truck, he recognized something in that horse and knew he couldn’t leave him there to die. I know, this sounds like the tagline for a sappy movie, but the book is anything but sappy. The book is written in such great detail, I felt like I was with Harry and Snowy every step of the way. When reading about the shows they were entered in I felt like I was watching the events unfold and often found myself gasping when reading about the height of the jumps and how the horses fared when flying over them. More than once I groaned when a sentence started or finished with “Harry could tell something was not right...” or when Snowman clipped a pole. And when Snowman and Harry won events, I was probably grinning like an idiot as I was reading. And in the end, reading about the death of Snowman (I’m not spoiling anything here ‘cause, let’s face it, this horse isn’t over sixty and tooling around a meadow somewhere) I was biting my lip and my eyes were definitely doing that burning you-know-you-want-to-cry thing. I wondered if the author was taking descriptive liberties with the events of the book, as they were so detailed, but when I read a note about the sources she used, I realized she did an amazing amount of research to make sure her story was accurate, with the most important primary source being Harry himself. I really wish that I hadn’t just won an advance uncorrected proof of this book from Goodreads. And no, I’m not, sorry for the phrase, looking a gift horse in the mouth, I know I’m lucky to not only get a copy for free but be able to read it before it’s published, but I loved this book so much it’s staying in my library and I would’ve loved to have the hardbound version of it. The only real problem I had with it, which is super minor and they might be different in the finished version, is the pictures. There were a fair amount of them throughout, which is great, but they were all black and white (I know color film was available, but maybe it wasn’t used by the De Leyers and others who supplied photos), and many are so dark that it’s hard to see detail. Also, some of them didn’t seem like they were placed with the corresponding story and the titles could have had a bit more detail. Like I said, this may just be due to the fact that this is not a final copy of the book. The Eighty-Dollar Champion is a quick, effortless read. Harry was the ultimate horseman, not only was he one of the best riders of his time, but he truly loved his horses, especially Snowman, while Snowman was a supremely calm, gentle horse who showed that he had more heart and talent than anyone would expect a former workhorse could have. Pick up this book, you won’t be sorry you did.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth☮

    Harry deLeyer immigrated to the States after surviving war-torn Holland. He and his wife build a home for themselves here in the U.S. deLeyer's talent is with horses and so he finds his way to training young girls at a private school. One day deLeyer travels to Pennsylvania to the largest horse auction in the states. While there, he saves a horse from the slaughterhouse. The price: $80. This horse is snowman and he is a retired field horse. But when deLeyer sells him off to a neighbor down the r Harry deLeyer immigrated to the States after surviving war-torn Holland. He and his wife build a home for themselves here in the U.S. deLeyer's talent is with horses and so he finds his way to training young girls at a private school. One day deLeyer travels to Pennsylvania to the largest horse auction in the states. While there, he saves a horse from the slaughterhouse. The price: $80. This horse is snowman and he is a retired field horse. But when deLeyer sells him off to a neighbor down the road when school breaks for the summer, Snowman somehow ends up at his home time and time again. deLeyer finally realizes Snowman has been jumping the fences in the paddock. It is this realization that transforms Snowman's life (and that of the deLeyer family). As Snowman's story unfolds, I found myself smiling and holding my breath. This is a tribute to the spirit of man and horse both. deLeyer is loyal to his horse and never compromises his principals in what can be a cut throat business. There is a nice portrait given of the socioeconomic divide between rich and working class in 1950's America (and what a divide it is). The history of horse jumping competitions is compelling also. Letts does a good job of filling in all areas of the puzzle. I let this book sit on my shelf for far too long. I'm glad I finally got to it.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Melodie

    I love animal stories. And if they are true stories, that's even better. This was a good story. Snowman, or Snowy as he was called by his family was destined for the slaughterhouse. But Harry de Leyer saw something in Snowy's calm brown eyes that made him take a chance on the broken down horse. Harry knew a little something about second chances. He lived through World War II, and came to the States with very little money but a wealth of horse and farming knowledge and a dream of a better life. I love animal stories. And if they are true stories, that's even better. This was a good story. Snowman, or Snowy as he was called by his family was destined for the slaughterhouse. But Harry de Leyer saw something in Snowy's calm brown eyes that made him take a chance on the broken down horse. Harry knew a little something about second chances. He lived through World War II, and came to the States with very little money but a wealth of horse and farming knowledge and a dream of a better life. I won't go too far into the story, but suffice it to say that Harry and Snowy surpassed all expectations. I enjoyed the story and learned a little something about the world of horse shows and their participants. If you like animal stories,pick this one up.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Barb

    First let me say that I read nearly every horse book ever written as a child, every dog book, every raccoon book, every animal book. As an adult, I am still a sucker for a good animal story. And this is a GREAT animal story. I cried when Snowman died (don't worry - of old age) because I had become so attached to the horse. The writing is fine - the author is knowledgable about horses, horse jumping, and adds some nice historical facts about the times, the sport, and horses in America that are fu First let me say that I read nearly every horse book ever written as a child, every dog book, every raccoon book, every animal book. As an adult, I am still a sucker for a good animal story. And this is a GREAT animal story. I cried when Snowman died (don't worry - of old age) because I had become so attached to the horse. The writing is fine - the author is knowledgable about horses, horse jumping, and adds some nice historical facts about the times, the sport, and horses in America that are fun to read if you like trivia and also helps keep the book grounded in the times the horse lived. Maybe there is a little too much emphasis on the impact of WWII and the Germans on Harry, who buys Snowman and turns him into a jumper. But the story of man and horse (and to a certain extent family) is so good, all by itself, that the writer is almost incidental. There is no way to make this story anything but a triumph. It was fun to read, and I am already imagining the movie..... if whichever fighting prevented one during the horse's lifetime have finally been resolved. Go Snowy. Go Harry (still alive, as of this writing).

  17. 5 out of 5

    Isabel Roman

    Poorly done. Rather than take the greatness of an underdog on the equestrian circuit, Ms. Letts expounded on the New York area's history, the arena, the school and students who attended (and their drivers, clothes, activities, etc), the horse bits, the competitors, the journalists, the newspapers’ history for God's sake! I don't care about them. I want to read about the plow horse and the Dutch immigrant who made horse jumping history; about Snowman’s jumping itself, not the closest challenger; Poorly done. Rather than take the greatness of an underdog on the equestrian circuit, Ms. Letts expounded on the New York area's history, the arena, the school and students who attended (and their drivers, clothes, activities, etc), the horse bits, the competitors, the journalists, the newspapers’ history for God's sake! I don't care about them. I want to read about the plow horse and the Dutch immigrant who made horse jumping history; about Snowman’s jumping itself, not the closest challenger; about Harry’s training of Snowman. Don’t toss names at me that have no meaning to the greater story. This isn’t a history of the late 50s in New York, but rather of the underdog horse and how a former plow horse made it from death’s row to national champion. Repetitiveness—I won’t even go into that. Sufficient to say, I skimmed huge quantities of the book looking for more about Snowman, the poor horse who was neglected through a story around him.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Phoebe

    As a former horse rider I was very eager to read this book. Unfortunately I was very disappointed by the way the story was told. The book alternated between long passages of historical references and would then jump back into the story of Harry and Snowman. It was awkward and didn't seem to flow. When the author wrote about the horseshows it was monotonous and tedious. They were all written exactly the same way. I might as well have been re-reading the same passages over and over. The book itsel As a former horse rider I was very eager to read this book. Unfortunately I was very disappointed by the way the story was told. The book alternated between long passages of historical references and would then jump back into the story of Harry and Snowman. It was awkward and didn't seem to flow. When the author wrote about the horseshows it was monotonous and tedious. They were all written exactly the same way. I might as well have been re-reading the same passages over and over. The book itself wasn't terrible but it left me feeling very underwhelmed.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Tasha

    I enjoyed this story of beautiful sweet Snowman and the man who loved him. What a bond they shared and what a wonderful horse! The story itself is not the most engaging one as the writing was a bit dry at times, but overall an interesting story. I am seeking out the book for kids. I see there is a new release coming this summer.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    True story, very interesting but I think a lot was added just to fill a book.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Angelique Simonsen

    amazing horse amazing man. i cried at the end of snowmans life 😭

  22. 4 out of 5

    Sunny

    .... From my review/blog www.bookinwithsunny.com When Harry de Leyer arrived at the weekly Holland, Pennsylvania horse auction, he was late. It was February 1956. He had driven through rough weather from Long Island, New York, in a station wagon with bad lights and one tire that had gone flat. The only one left at the auction was “Killer,” the man who waited every week until the auction’s end to buy all the unsold animals. These he’d load onto his truck and take to the slaughterhouse. Harry had .... From my review/blog www.bookinwithsunny.com When Harry de Leyer arrived at the weekly Holland, Pennsylvania horse auction, he was late. It was February 1956. He had driven through rough weather from Long Island, New York, in a station wagon with bad lights and one tire that had gone flat. The only one left at the auction was “Killer,” the man who waited every week until the auction’s end to buy all the unsold animals. These he’d load onto his truck and take to the slaughterhouse. Harry had hoped to buy a good lesson horse, something his students at an exclusive boarding school for girls on Long Island could ride. He spoke briefly to Killer before returning to his car. He could see and hear the nervous movement of the horses in the truck – all but one. Through the slats, a rather pathetic looking gray plow horse calmly watched as Harry passed. Harry paused and looked at the horse looking at him. In those few moments, man and horse connected. Harry went back to speak to “Killer” again. The Eighty-Dollar Champion: Snowman, the Horse That Inspired a Nation is a love story like no other. Elizabeth Letts, hooks the reader within the first two pages and she never lets go until the end of this wonderful true story. Snowman, as the gray Amish plow horse would soon be called, was purchased that day for eighty dollars, including delivery. After weeks of good care and nourishment, the gray became the darling of the entire de Leyer family. Harry knew that Snowman was not another Seabiscuit. Speed was not Snowman’s thing. Seabiscuit could run fast, very fast, but what Harry would soon find out was that Snowman could jump, jump high, very high. How this young Dutch immigrant, coming to the States with his wife in the early 1950s, found his way to become a riding instructor for the daughters of the wealthy at an exclusive boarding school; to buy an old Amish plow horse; and then to have that horse take him into the rarefied equestrian world of show jumping, all the way to the championships at Madison Square Gardens, is pure magic. Letts takes the reader back to Harry’s youth on a farm in Holland and then through his wartime experiences under Nazi occupation. The author somewhat overplays a link between Harry’s wartime years and Snowman’s possible hardships as a farm horse (we only know that Snowman bore the marks of the plow and that he was in poor physical condition when purchased). Letts could have loosened up on the issue of man and horse sharing the underdog status. But with the author’s strong background as an equestrian, she excels in describing the time and patience that go into producing a jumper. Sometimes a horse is a jumper at heart, as Harry found out when, for financial reasons, he sold the gentle horse to a nearby doctor. On multiple occasions, Snowman found his way back to Harry, having jumped over every fence between the doctor’s farm and Harry’s. de Leyer happily bought him back from the doctor, and he and Snowman would not part again until death. I told you it is a love story. In describing Harry’s unusual style of jumping, with extremely loose reins, giving it all to the horse, Letts describes the jumping: “This was more than an act of athletic prowess; it was an act of joy.” She also has a gift for choosing just the right word to enlarge and enrich a descriptive passage, as when writing of the grounds of an outdoor show: “The bright green turf field was as neatly groomed as a golf course fairway.” The word “fairway” allows the reader to see the field on a grand scale. Snowman’s story is not only his, it is also ours as America’s postwar culture shifted into a democratization of the exclusive world of highly bred show jumpers and the equally highly bred equestrians who rode them. Thanks to the plow horse turned jumper, this was also true of the people who were drawn to the sport. If they’d let such a horse compete, then it stood to reason a bloodline should not be required of spectators to cheer from the bleachers. The world was changing. The author’s depictions of high school women of the 1950s are spot-on. It’s easy for the reader to find their way down memory lane when told of Snowman’s picture on Life Magazine and his appearance on the Johnny Carson Show. Snowman was a horse as at home with four of the de Leyer children riding him bareback as he was taking a six-foot fence in the show ring. Reading this book was a great ride and if we had been in the ring, I’d say Elizabeth Letts went over some high fences. She may have bumped a few rails, but overall she pretty much cleared the course with thrilling form and only a couple of faults. The Eighty-Dollar Champion: Snowman, the Horse That Inspired a Nation is an ideal book for the equestrian or horseback rider in your family. What, no family? But you love horses? Then The Eighty-Dollar Champion has your name on it.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Mirrani

    This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers. The Eighty Dollar Champion is a book that is both easy to explain and hard to describe. It tells the story of the famous horse Snowman and his owner Harry de Leyer who jumped their way into the hearts of Americans in the mid 50’s. The story itself is not unique; a man from another country comes to America and works hard at what he loves, finds a diamond in the rough and together the two of them soar to the stars. In a time where we find bo This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers. The Eighty Dollar Champion is a book that is both easy to explain and hard to describe. It tells the story of the famous horse Snowman and his owner Harry de Leyer who jumped their way into the hearts of Americans in the mid 50’s. The story itself is not unique; a man from another country comes to America and works hard at what he loves, finds a diamond in the rough and together the two of them soar to the stars. In a time where we find books on Secretariat and Seabiscuit, Snowman would seem like just another one of those S names thrown in to the mix, but the telling of his story is anything but. Throughout the beginning of the book readers will discover a lot about the horses of America, how they worked, how they served our country and how they suddenly seemed to vanish once the big machines came along. The stories of riding schools and the back history of the jumping circuits fill the pages with interesting information, not often known to the casual fan of equestrian sport. Unfortunately, it also leaves you wondering what happened to this Eighty Dollar Champion and what his role in all of that past could possibly be. That said, though the pages might have felt a little weighted against Snowman in the beginning, I found that somehow balanced the image of Snowman’s life, found on a slaughterhouse truck, a nobody, then proving at the end that he was much more than he seemed. Once reaching the story of Snowman himself, the reader becomes easily caught up in his story of hope. It is clear that the author not only loves horses, but loves the bonds of a rider and his horse. Much time was spent cherishing the kindness in the hearts of true, kind horsemen, who focus on understanding their horses and being understood rather than on simply being forced to obey. At times I was reminded of reading the Black Stallion or Black Beauty, where the theme is much the same, treat your horse well and he will love you in return, doing all that you ask. It was easy to become lost in days of this pair, suffering their difficulties and sharing their joys. There were many moments that seemed repetitive, but those also seemed to fit with the theme of the book, imitating the rhythm of hoof beats in the ring. Perhaps that was also unintentional, but it felt right, somehow to fall into that familiar rhythm that is so often described from Harry’s point of view. Though the book could be called a little repetitive and unevenly distributed in places, having the back history in the beginning is helpful for those who did not grow up in the time of Snowman and the repetition will take horse lovers into the arena to fall into the flow of step and jump as easily as the rider flows with the horse. The mention of a movie deal was thrown into the fray at one point in the book, yet we discover nothing ever came of it. I say that maybe the movie, taken from the pages of the Eighty Dollar Champion, can finally be made! Note: Though this book was given to me as part of an early review program, the content of my review was in no way influenced by the gifting. The book speaks for itself and my review would have been worded just this way even if I'd gone out and bought it.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    What an unbelievable story!

  25. 4 out of 5

    Matthew

    In 2006, I was finishing my mission and Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin gave a talk called "The Abundant Life", in which he shared the story of Snowman, the 80-dollar champion. That talk was exactly what I needed to hear at that time in my life, and to this day I still think about it and read it often. Reading this book with that talk as my lens made it even more powerful and moving for me. One thing I love about the book that isn't apparent in the talk, is that Snowman wasn't just instantly good at ju In 2006, I was finishing my mission and Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin gave a talk called "The Abundant Life", in which he shared the story of Snowman, the 80-dollar champion. That talk was exactly what I needed to hear at that time in my life, and to this day I still think about it and read it often. Reading this book with that talk as my lens made it even more powerful and moving for me. One thing I love about the book that isn't apparent in the talk, is that Snowman wasn't just instantly good at jumping. Despite his natural abilities, he had to practice and improve bit by bit, just like the rest of us. He had his share of stumbles and disappointments. I think this fact makes his achievements all the more meaningful. "The big gray is long gone, but living on is the memory of the horse who was yoked to a plow yet wanted to soar. Snowman and Harry showed the world how extraordinary the most ordinary among us can be."

  26. 5 out of 5

    Marjorie Thelen

    This is a true rags-to-riches story about a plow horse saved from the slaughterhouse in 1956 by a Dutch immigrant to the U.S., Harry de Leyer. Harry's kids named the horse Snowman because he had snow all over him when he stepped off the slaughter house truck on their small farm on Long Island, New York. Snowman went on to become in 1958 Horse of the Year, the Professional Horseman’s Association Champion and the Champion of the Madison Square Garden’s Diamond Jubilee. Letts tells the entire story This is a true rags-to-riches story about a plow horse saved from the slaughterhouse in 1956 by a Dutch immigrant to the U.S., Harry de Leyer. Harry's kids named the horse Snowman because he had snow all over him when he stepped off the slaughter house truck on their small farm on Long Island, New York. Snowman went on to become in 1958 Horse of the Year, the Professional Horseman’s Association Champion and the Champion of the Madison Square Garden’s Diamond Jubilee. Letts tells the entire story of Snowman from when de Leyer first found the horse at the New Holland, Pennsylvania horse auction and bought him for $80 from the slaughterhouse truck driver to the end of his eventful life in 1974 at the de Leyer farm, Hollandia, on Long Island. Letts not only chronicles Snowman’s rise to fame and how de Leyer discovered the horse’s jumping abilities and trained him. The author also gives us insights into de Leyer and his family who left Holland after World War Two to seek better opportunities in the United States; into the 1950s in the U.S. and what it was like to live then; into the Knox Girls School on Long Island where de Leyer and his family worked and lived; into snobbish New York Society and the show jumping world and more. Interlaced with the Snowman’s Cinderella story are bits of interesting history that occur during the Snowman’s life. Sometimes Letts’ storytelling is repetitive, and the family seems a little too perfect to be believed, especially since in the Epilogue we learn that Harry and his wife divorce. Nevertheless, it is a compelling story and one that will interest readers of all ages.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Josephine

    One star for writing a book so popular about an activity and a period that not all readers know about. One star for making me tear up when Snowman had to be put down. (Don't worry: he was twenty-six, a respectable age for a horse that had worked so hard throughout its lifetime. Trust me, show jumping at Snowman's level is every bit as stressful as pulling a plow.) Minus a star for anthropomorphising Snowman as much as she did--ascribing human emotions to an animal to that degree gets up my nose. One star for writing a book so popular about an activity and a period that not all readers know about. One star for making me tear up when Snowman had to be put down. (Don't worry: he was twenty-six, a respectable age for a horse that had worked so hard throughout its lifetime. Trust me, show jumping at Snowman's level is every bit as stressful as pulling a plow.) Minus a star for anthropomorphising Snowman as much as she did--ascribing human emotions to an animal to that degree gets up my nose. While I'm sure animals do have emotions and thought processes, they can't approach human levels of either one. Minus a point for the endless repetition of descriptions, phrases, and commentary, to the point of collapsing thirty years of de Leyer's life after Snowman's death down enough that life-changing events such as his divorce get only one sentence in the epilogue. Minus a star for not going into more detail about de Leyer's training techniques; while it's true that Snowman had both a tremendous innate talent and the temperament for performing in front of a noisy audience, de Leyer must have done something. As it is, there didn't seem to be much connecting the early lessons attempting to trot over cavaletti and entering him in shows.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Anne

    Snowman, the Horse that Inspired a Nation is the subtitle of this book but it doesn't tell the whole story. This is also a book about Harry de Leyer, an immigrant from Holland, who arrived in the United States with his wife, $160, and the dream of a better life than was possible in the Nazi occupied country he left. Harry's story is every bit as inspiring as that of Snowman. The horse show scenes became just a little bit repetitive in telling the champion's tale but then horse shows are for all Snowman, the Horse that Inspired a Nation is the subtitle of this book but it doesn't tell the whole story. This is also a book about Harry de Leyer, an immigrant from Holland, who arrived in the United States with his wife, $160, and the dream of a better life than was possible in the Nazi occupied country he left. Harry's story is every bit as inspiring as that of Snowman. The horse show scenes became just a little bit repetitive in telling the champion's tale but then horse shows are for all intents one the same as another with the main exception being which horse will prevail on any given day. I still delighted in reading each and every description of Snowman's outings and especially of the events where Snowman captured the best in show awards. Harry and Snowman both worked hard to achieve their victories and their place in life. This book should rank right up there with all the other great horse stories like Black Beauty and Seabiscuit. Most people love to root for the underdog and cheering for the $80 plow horse who was rescued from the rendering truck will be an entertaining read for horse lovers and the uninformed, like me.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Lori

    I think this quote sums it up best... "Together they(Harry de Leyer and Snowman)represented the attitude of America: with skill, a little luck, a lot of grit, and most of all a belief that big dreams can come true" you can achieve anything. A very up lifting story of how an old plow horse bound for the 'glue factory' and a Dutch immigrant fleeing war torn Holland beat the odds and inspired a nation!!! Highly recommend!!!

  30. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie A.

    That is an inspiring story. I was worried that it would end up being too much about the people, but although it was a bit historical-research focused, thanks to the 1950s setting I found it all fascinating. I especially can't wait to go round up the 1960s children's novel about Snowman that was mentioned.

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