#1303 – TRUE STORY OF ZIPPY CHIPPY: The Little Horse That Couldn’t by Artie Bennett & Dave Szalay


The Little Horse That Couldn’t
Written by Artie Bennett
Illustrated by Dave Szalay
NorthSouth Books, Inc. 2/25/2020
40 Pages   Age 4—8

Genre:  Children’s Picture Book, Nonfiction
Themes: Horseracing, Winning Vs. Losing, True Story



ZIPPY CHIPPY is descended from the leading legends of horse racing. He is destined or greatness and glory. But . . . when the starting bell rings, it’s anybody’s guess what Zippy will do. Will Zippy go for a gentle trot around the track or stop and smell the roses? Or, perhaps, never even leave the starting gate?

What’s an owner to do? Try and try again! After all, he believes in Zippy—and, besides, the horse is now apart of the family. But as Zippy’s losses mount, a funny thing happens. People take notice of the hapless, cupcake-loving horse. Could it be that they’re betting on Zippy to win?

This remarkable story of the famed racehorse who lost every race is sure to win your heart!(from inside jacket flap)

Opening Sentences

“ZIPPY CHIPPY was a racehorse, descended from legends that ran like the wind. He was destined for glory—and would follow in their hoofbeats. The only problem was, when Zippy ran . . .”

Why I like The True Story of Zippy Chippy: The Little Horse That Couldn’t

Zippy Chippy was a beloved racehorse; a champion among those who loved him (he had a lot of fans); and is the perfect character for a children’s picture book. Zippy, like many champion racehorses, descended from other famous winning racehorses. In his blood resided War Admiral and Man O’ War, among others. With such an amazing bloodline, Zippy was expected to win. But he never did. Not against another racehorse, nor against a minor league baseball outfielder (only a 40-yard dash, not a run around a track). Career wise, Zippy Chippy’s final record was abysmal: he ran 100 races and lost 100 races. So why was Zippy a champion? Why did people love him and even bet on him to win?

In sports, when a team or player has been going through a “rough patch,” others will say, “You’re due.” They are saying the person’s bad luck is a streak, not a career condition; you will have your turn. Zippy Chippy’s turn never arrived, but the odds were on his side, so people bet hoping for a huge payoff; or they wanted a souvenir—what better than a Zippy Chippy losing betting slip?

Children of typical picture book age will love the illustrations (yeah, me too!) and like the story read to them, but will need mom or dad’s definition of several words currently out of their age range. I am not saying a three, four, or five-year-old will not like Zippy Chippy, because they will, very much. For these ages, I’d give the credit to David Szalay for his hilarious illustrations. The youngest children will carry the book around, enjoy the horse pictures, and laugh at Zippy sticking his tongue out at people, just like they sometimes do. They will love the idea of nuzzling up with a horse like Zippy. And they will remember Zippy never won a race, but is still a champion. So, while they may not understand many of the words or situations, they can relate to the hapless horse and love him.

For the above reasons, I would put this title under the noses of middle grade children. They will not need more than an occasional dictionary. While reading, Zippy’s pranks will make them laugh aloud. The follies Mr. Bennett chose to intersperse while telling Zippy’s story will be more appreciated by older children. Astute readers will recognize the word play, finding most funny. It is quite obvious Mr. Bennett chooses each word with care, with thought, and with humor.

“The horse with the donkey-like ears could also be stubborn . . .”

“Zippy Chippy . . . descended from legends that ran like the wind . . . when Zippy ran . . . it was more like a gentle breeze.”

And my favorite: “But Zippy bridled at the change.”

The older kids (age 7 and up) will like the art. They will notice how Zippy expresses his feelings, usually on each spread. Zippy Chippy makes faces that not only a mother could love, but faces kids will laugh with as well. The glint is always with Zippy, as is the occasional sadness. Zippy, in art and in text, becomes a role-model. He continues despite not winning. When he is retired, Zippy misses racing because he loved what he did, having a passion most of us should reach for in our lives. Zippy did not care about the winning, he cared about the racing. Zippy liked to join in, be a part of others’ lives. He sticks his tongue out at the crowd, and other “pranks” not to incite but to connect. While the crowds clap and cheer for the racehorses, Zippy says, “Thank you,” to the crowd with a simple bow, before running off to try and catch the other racehorses’

Through it all, Artie Bennett stays on track. He is succinct, thoughtful, and funny. He loves the absurd, which might explain the topics he successfully writes about for children. Artie Bennett is the man behind such hilarious picture books as Poopendous! (with Mike Moran) and The Butt Book (with Mike Lester) that children pick-up because of the title and the cover art, but then can’t put down—nor stop laughing—once they’ve cracked open the cover. Mr. Bennett knows how to hook kids with humor and does so with complete control. Children will easily become hooked on Mr. Bennett’s style of writing and his comical poetry. (Okay, his comical “poopetry”). He’s written about such child-favorites as riddles, dinosaurs, burping, farting, and panda bears throwing temper tantrums—I had no idea those sweet, gentle creatures had fits, but I swear one on the endpaper winked—and now a racehorse.

Quickly returning to the intended reader, a late thought arrived. Young children (all children and adults) would do well to try reading a little above their reading ability and comfort level. New readers have no level and so must begin somewhere. As a genre, picture books have a very long range. Often picture books reach higher than expected, out of reach of their reader, in hopes the intended reader rises up, grabs ahold, and never let’s go; all to learn something new and special. While I errantly dismissed it, I am thinking Mr. Bennett, the writer who carefully chooses his words and where to place them, would not have absently written above a four to eight-year-old level without a reason. He may like to write about poop and belches or tickle children’s funny bones with dinosaur jokes, but Mr. Bennett also writes to educate and entertain children (and adults), succeeding each and every time.

The True Story of Zippy Chippy: The Little Horse That Couldn’t is another winner, this time for the team of Artie Bennett and David Szalay.

Zippy Chippy has had two books written about him; one for children and another for adults. Appropriately, both authors love humor and give their readers buckets upon buckets of words and sentences to smile and laugh about. The other book is referenced in Mr. Bennett’s Bibliography. You cannot miss it. Mr. Thomas’ book is the only book referenced. (Artie, you made me laugh right up to the end!)

Back Matter

An Author’s Note, cover the back endpapers. In it, Artie Bennett answers a few questions not answered in his story. The material is all factual, laced with Mr. Bennett’s humor. Topics left out of the narrative include:

  • How does a racehorse get its name? (Hint: Mom nor dad are involved.)
  • What could have been Zippy Chippy’s racing name?
  • What do Canadians and Mexicans make for Europeans, but not North Americans?
  • What does a racehorse do all day after he is retired?
  • When a racehorse retires, what other things can it do?

More about Zippy Chippy:

  • Why t-shirts with the slogan, “Winners Don’t Always Finish First”?
  • Who made Zippy an ambassador and what did Zippy do as one?
  • More on the relationship between Zippy and his owner Felix.
  • More facts on Zippy’s racing career.
  • Answers the question, “Is Zippy a “running joke” or a true champion.” (pun not mine, though I like it)
  • What is baseball’s Lou Gehrig doing in Zippy’s story?
  • What does The Guinness Book of World Records, People Magazine, and Zippy Chippy have in common?

Finally, Mr. Bennett included a Bibliography. He specifically references William Thomas’ The Legend of Zippy Chippy: Life Lessons from Horse Racing’s Most Lovable Loser. Mr. Thomas is also a writer of humor, but for adults.


To Learn More About Author Artie Bennett:  ArtieBennett.com

To Learn More About Artist Dave Szalay:  DavidSzalay.com

Available at Amazon:  The True Story of Zippy Chippy: The Little Horse That Couldn’t    


TRUE STORY OF ZIPPY CHIPPY: The Little Horse That Couldn’t. Text Copyright © 2020 by Artie Bennett. Illustrations copyright © 2020 by Dave Szalay. Published by PUB, New York, NY.


Copyright © 2020 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews. All Rights Reserved
[1024-word count—review only]

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NEXT UP: MG – Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. (50th Anniversary Special Edition) by Judy Blue – Atheneum BYR

AND THEN: PB – The Little Kitten by Nicola Killen –Paula Wiseman Books


9 thoughts on “#1303 – TRUE STORY OF ZIPPY CHIPPY: The Little Horse That Couldn’t by Artie Bennett & Dave Szalay

  1. Thank you, Sue, for the lovely, thoughtful review! I especially appreciate your pointing out the delicious wordplay and the vocabulary-stretching text, two things not often found in picture books. And I couldn’t agree more about Dave Szalay’s hilarious illustrations. I admire them so. I’m mighty obliged, Sue, for your helping to spread the good word about Zippy Chippy, a heck of a horse.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Cupcake, I’ve noticed you like stubborn animals and I seem to have quite a few on this blog. Maybe it is time for you, Cupcake, to write a book and see if you really would be reviewed as, “One stubborn mutt!!” I got the impression Zippy would like dogs, so you and he would probably be great friends,


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