Children's Book Author

D is for Derby: A Kentucky Derby Alphabet

D is for Derby: A Kentucky Derby Alphabet 

  • Illustrator: Jaime Corum
  • Published by Sleeping Bear Press

The Kentucky Derby is the oldest continuous sporting event in the United States. But don’t call it just a horse race. This annual May event, known as “the most exciting two minutes in sports,” is steeped in tradition and pageantry far beyond what happens on the track. Following the alphabet, D is for Derby: A Kentucky Derby Alphabet uses poetry and expository text to explain this world-famous event. Topics include famous jockeys, legendary horses, fabled Bluegrass farms and owners, as well as offering a behind-the scenes view of thoroughbred breeding and racing. Readers young and old, along with horse enthusiasts and diehard Derby fans, will enjoy this celebration of one of the most prestigious sporting and cultural events in our country.

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.

But then comes the most important part of the day: the race. The horses line up, their owners hoping for the Triple Crown: P is for Preakness, and together with the Derby and the Belmont Stakes, it could mean a big win!

So you’ve got a couple of horse lovers around, but they want different things from the books they read. And that’s why you’ll love giving them “D is for Derby.”

Author Helen L. Wilbur wrote this book to appeal to two age groups on the same page: children who enjoy a good picture book and need the basics; and older readers who want solid information and a chance to really understand horse racing. Add in amazingly lifelike illustrations by Jaime Corum (my favorite part!) and you’ve got something that kids will enjoy and that adults won’t mind reading, too. For racing season, this is a perfect grow-with-your-child book – but beware that it’s not for those weekends alone. Hand your 3-to-13-year-olds “D is for Derby” now, and they’ll want to read it over and over.

~Terri Schlichenmeyer
Rushville Republican,
April 22, 2014

The babysitter cancelled, the nanny asked for the day off months ago, and your parents are at the track, but how can you enjoy the Kentucky Derby fun with your children? When Frozen has already played so many times you know the words better than Kristen Bell, it is time to get out and have fun in Louisville with your kids. Introduce your children to the Kentucky tradition from the beginning. There are dozens of colorful books about the Kentucky Derby that you’ll both love reading.

D is for Derby by Helen Wilbur teaches of the jockeys, horses, farms, owners and race while teaching your child the alphabet.

~Caitlyn Crenshaw
Essential Louisville: 5 Children’s books about the Kentucky Derby,
April 8, 2014 – 8:00am

The latest entry in the publisher’s alphabet series spotlights the Kentucky Derby, from “A is for Aristides” (the first winner of the Derby) to “Z is for Zeal.” Like others in the series, this picture book presents topics in rhymed couplets accompanied by paragraphs of text in smaller type and a large painting for each entry. The quality of the verse is uneven, but the accompanying prose text is clearly written and interesting. A Kentucky painter who specializes in horses, Corum contributes pleasing paintings that are equally effective in depicting women showing off their Derby Day hats or a groom calming a thoroughbred before the race, and horse lovers will linger over the dramatically lit portrait of Secretariat.

While the book’s alphabetical structure leads to a rather haphazard arrangement of ideas, children interested in the Derby will absorb each bit of information from each entry while enjoying the colorful illustrations. Grades 1-4.

~Carolyn Phelan
From Booklist –

Most people have a vague idea of what the Kentucky Derby is all about, but very few know the rich history behind it. But former librarian and Helen L. Wilbur changes all of that with her dashing new picture book, D is For Derby.

In this brilliantly-illustrated alphabet book, Ms. Wilbur uses both poetry and prose to tell the story of a sporting event that is as American as apple pie: The regal horses from yesteryear (like Exterminator, the rough and awkward horse that ended up becoming one of the most powerful race-horses of all time); lovely female spectators bedecked in extravagant brim hats; and what it’s like in the horseshoe-shaped winner’s circle when the race has been won.

In true A-B-C format, the book teaches readers about when thoroughbred foals are born, and when they are sold; how a groom’s soothing hands and calming voice can inspire a champion to do its best; how kings and queens come to the derby to be a part of the hoof-pounding excitement; and even how Kentucky bluegrass got its name.

Part picture book, part book-of-knowledge, part old-fashioned ABC book, this quaint picture book should prove to be a great read for both child and adult. It will excite current and forthcoming equestrians, charm fact-loving historians, and serve as a great teaching tool for any classroom discussion about animals, sporting events, favorite pastimes and American traditions.

Although it is an alphabet book, the lengthy and challenging passages make it a great choice for independent or supplemental reading for children in grades 3 – 6 (ages 8 to 11).

Younger children in grades K-2 may also benefit from being exposed to this book because they will learn about animal care, equestrian sports and ABC’s, all at the same time. As long as a parent or teacher is handy to assist these younger ones with the lengthy passages, they should have no problem digesting the exciting contents of this book.

Young and old alike will enjoy artist Jaime Corum’s rich illustrations that are so realistic, readers will feel like they’ve been dropped right down in the middle of the Derby. They will imagine themselves astride a powerful race-horse, feeling the flexing muscles, hearing the thundering hooves, and smelling the horse’s sweat as the Kentucky Bluegrass rolls into the distance as far as the eye can see.

Picture Book Depot Outstanding Illustration Award
Picture Book Depot
Outstanding Illustration Award
And because these illustrations are so rich, this book is hereby awarded the coveted Picture Book Depot Outstanding Illustrations award.

For a creative way to enjoy history, sports and Americana all wrapped up into one, be sure to pick up a copy of D is For Derby.

Best wishes and happy Kentucky Derby,
Rita Lorraine

From Picture Book Depot –

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