Did you wish for a pony every year for your birthday? For me that wish never came true; I made do with a menagerie of pets but always hoped for a dapple grey horse of my own. This dream is what drew me to You Wish by Mandy Hubbard. Kayla’s Sweet Sixteen birthday party goes awry and in the chaos a jinxed cake grants her all the past birthday wishes she didn’t receive. Of course her first present is a darling pink miniature pony (I sort of thought he would be purple given the cover but oh well) with an ice cream cone painted on its tush. I wanted the whole book to be about this little horse and started to think that once you’ve read Black Beauty by Anna Sewell and the entire collection of Marguerite Henry novels your options are limited. I read lots of horse books as a kid, My Friend Flicka, National Velvet and The Black Stallion; so why now that I’m hooked on teen novels can I not find more horse books? I really had to scour the stacks and I admit some what I found was in the adult department, like Seabiscuit : an American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand. Several booklists and a foray on Amazon led me to the following options for teen horse lovers and horse lovers who enjoy teen novels like me.
The A Circuit by Georgina Bloomberg and Catherine Hapka, was released in May 2011 with a sequel on the way in March 2012. The A Circuit series will continue with My Favorite Mistake. Which means I have to wait until spring to find out if Zara does right by Fitz so they can both work at Pelham Lane Stables. And I also need to know if Fitz and Kate work things out. What a killer ending, with Bloomberg and Hapka leaving you hanging about the future of all their characters. You will reread the end of the book looking for clues but there is no getting around this cliff hanger. In addition to the diverse cast of teen characters, the inclusion of Kate’s mother, who has OCD that compels her to tap and count items was unusual and added an extra dynamic. In A Circuit the humans and the horses all have their time to shine, you learn about each character as well as a barn full of horses. I had to look up a few words, but don’t let that keep you from getting into this story about horse shows and show jumping in New York.
If you are still champing at the bit for more horses and you don’t want to wait until next year, keep your eyes peeled for Maggie Steifvater’s new book Scorpio Races (2012 Best Fiction for Young Adults Nominations), available October 18, 2011. Scorpio Races is a fantasy novel about Puck Connolly, the first girl to race on water horses. Stiefvater’s website summarizes the races: “It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line. Some riders live. Others die” (Maggie Stiefvater). I hope that Stiefvater plays with the lore regarding the Kelpie or water-horse; in Celtic legend these beasts could change shape and nearly always killed any rider who dared to mount them.
If a historical, romance with period speech and a mysterious horse is more your speed I suggest Belladonna by Mary Finn, released June 14, 2011. Set in England, school drop out Thomas meets the beautiful circus performer Ling who is hiding her French identity because the two countries are at war (oddly they never say which war, I assume its the French and Indian War). Ling’s mysterious past adds to the complexity of the story as she reveals her search for a dance partner, Belladonna, a “pure-white horse with a tail the color of barley.” Terrified that Belladonna’s new owner, George Stubbs, nicknamed the ‘ horse butcher,’ will euthanize the mare in the name of art and science, Thomas and Ling race to the estate where Belladonna is kept. Even in 1757, George Stubbs is infamous for killing horses to expose their anatomy, a study which made his paintings incredibly lifelike. Belladonna can be many stories at once. The main plot is the more clear desperate journey but it also has many subplots, some focusing on the all conveyed in period language that lend even more appeal to readers who want a substantial book to read.
Other suggested titles featuring horses that you might not be aware of include Blood Red Horse: Book One of the deGranville Trilogy by K.M. Grant (2007 Selected Audiobooks). Chancey of the Maury River by Gigi Amateau is an amazing story about an abandoned albino Appaloosa horse who finds a new home with Claire. It turns out she needs him as much as he needs her, but as his eyesight deteriorates, he and Claire start anew as a therapeutic team. I also suggest Lauraine Snelling’s two collections of stories called The Golden Filly that follow the life of sixteen year old Tricia Evanston who has grown up riding and training horses with her father at their family’s horse ranch, Runnin’ On Farms. The Golden Filly is a unique collection because it focuses on Tricia’s faith in God to guide her choices as she follows a career in racing.
Its encouraging to know that I don’t have to outgrow my love for horses and that I can still enjoy this appreciation through good fiction. It seems even famed author Libba Bray still sees value in a fascination with horses as evidenced by her statement “I’d like to thank YALSA, Booklist and the Printz Committee. Actually, I’d like to buy each of you a sparkle pony that burps diamonds and rainbows every day” (2010 Michael L. Printz Award Acceptance Speech Libba Bray).
Laura C Perenic is reading My Big Mouth : 10 Songs I Wrote That Almost Got Me Killed by Peter Hannan.
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