Wednesday, Jun. 12, 2024

Book Shelf–05/18/07

MY VERY OWN HORSE BOOK. Cornelia Thompson. Scholastic Inc./Klutz, 450 Lambert Ave., Palo Alto, CA 94306. 70 pp. 2007. Photographs, illustrations. $19.95.
There are shelves full of books about horses for young riders. But sometimes it takes every book on those shelves to find the information you need. My Very Own Horse Book will prevent that fruitless search; its breadth and depth of knowledge spans ages, disciplines, and level of riding experience.
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MY VERY OWN HORSE BOOK. Cornelia Thompson. Scholastic Inc./Klutz, 450 Lambert Ave., Palo Alto, CA 94306. 70 pp. 2007. Photographs, illustrations. $19.95.
There are shelves full of books about horses for young riders. But sometimes it takes every book on those shelves to find the information you need. My Very Own Horse Book will prevent that fruitless search; its breadth and depth of knowledge spans ages, disciplines, and level of riding experience.

This book would make an ideal gift for a rider from anywhere between 6 and 11 years old. The book includes sections for the beginner horseman, such as “Basic Horse Care” and “Types And Breeds,” but it also provides more advanced information, including a translation of horses’ body language to comprehensible “people terms.” For example, a vigorously swishing tail indicates displeasure or discomfort.

Produced by the popular Klutz series, My Very Own Horse Book also does an admirable job of representing several different disciplines of riding. It covers western, hunt seat, saddle seat and dressage. It’s perfect for providing a flavor of the various disciplines—enough to give you a taste and an appreciation of the differences and similarities between them.

Along with the written text, the book contains a hands-on craft activity: the construction of an English saddle, a bridle and a blanket for the model horse that’s included with the book. The project requires only a pair of scissors and a pen (all of the other materials are included), and its assembly is a relatively simple and instructive way to learn the parts and construction of each item. And to house your newly attired horse model, the box itself even transforms into a roomy stall.

The author of My Very Own Horse Book, Cornelia Thompson, should be commended not only for including such a wide range of information, but also for the book’s easily accessible presentation. The headings are clear and bold, and the facts beneath them are well explained.

All of the different fonts used are really readable. The use of color and graphics illustrates the topics well. Also, there are “Interesting Fact” boxes with fascinating trivia information. Did you know that the horse is the state animal of New Jersey?

I learned a great deal from My Very Own Horse Book. Whether you are a toy horse owner or a high-level equestrian, this book is a must-have on your bookshelf.     Marisa Messina

Junior book reviewer Marisa Messina, 13, is a seventh-grader at The Langley School in McLean, Va., who competes in the pony hunter and equitation classes. She enjoys reading and has several shelves full of horse books.

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WAR HORSE. Michael Morpurgo. Scholastic Press, 557 Broadway, New York, N.Y. 10012. 165 pp. 2007. $16.99.
First published in Great Britain in 1982, this work of fiction—aimed for readers  9 to  13—is a wonderfully written depiction of a horse’s experience in World War I. This book offers children a taste of the historical aspects of the war in combination with a touch of imagination, which engages the reader and, hopefully, educates along the way.

When I was a child I enjoyed reading Richard Adams’ Watership Down, the tale of a warren of rabbits who face the impending doom of suburbanization. Like Adams’ highly regarded book—also first published in the U.K.—this is a work in which the animal tells the tale.

For those readers who find anthropomorphism—attributing human characteristics and qualities to non-human beings—disturbing, this is a book you’ll want to skip. If you find unique points of view interesting, how-ever, this is a book that  horse lovers will enjoy.

War Horse is primarily a story of friendship and describes the qualities of a deep and lasting loyalty between a horse and a boy. In the beginning, Joey, the horse, belongs to a young boy named Albert who breaks and trains him after his father purchases the half-Thoroughbred on a whim. Even though he’s more suited as a riding horse, Joey must plow the fields to help the family make ends meet.

With the impending war and financial difficulties at hand, Albert’s father sells Joey to the British Army without Albert’s consent. From there, Joey’s life changes dramatically from working the fields and foxhunting to surviving battles and withstanding the harsh conditions of war.

Along the way and throughout the years of turmoil, Joey meets some extraordinary people from different countries who become his friends and help him to survive as he makes his way through France and Germany. A particularly memorable chapter describes “no-man’s land”, the ravaged, barbed-wire-strewn land between the trenches of the British and German armies, and Joey’s experience when he finds himself stranded in this desolation.

Eventually, Joey and Albert meet again, although their struggles don’t end when they reunite.

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This is a book that will captivate readers (even adults). War Horse was runner up in the Whitbread Award (now Costa Book Awards), the U.K.’s most prestigious book awards, when first published. Deservedly so.    Tricia Booker


HEARTLAND SPECIAL EDITION: BEYOND THE HORIZON. Lauren Brooke. Scholastic Inc., New York, NY 10012. 202 pp. 2007. $5.99.

This is the newest book in Lauren Brooke’s extensive series about a farm in Virginia that specializes in rehabilitating horses who’ve been injured or had traumatic experiences. Amy, her sister Lou, her grandfather and her boyfriend Ty all help run a farm where horses are treated using a mixture of natural horsemanship, Bach flower essences and TTouch, as well as more traditional training methods.

Beyond The Horizon picks up as Amy returns home for spring break from college. She’s training to become a veterinarian at Virginia Tech. Amy can’t wait to return home to her family and horses, but she quickly realizes that the farm has continued on in her absence, and she doesn’t fit in there as well as before.

So when she receives an emergency phone call asking her to fly out to a ranch in Arizona to help save a horse that will otherwise be put down, she’s torn between trying to fit her life back together at home and helping a horse in need.

This book is aimed at older children and teenagers. While it may be a bit simplistic for kids who spend their winters on the Wellington show circuit in Florida, the horse information is good and reasonably accurate. The horses in this story are the appropriate breed for their jobs and act like horses.

Beyond The Horizon also contains themes that are common for anybody who has grown up or is in the process of growing up, regardless of horses. Amy struggles with the conflict between the familiarity of home and the excitement of exploring new opportunities. She finds that old relationships, which used to satisfy her, no longer do. And she must deal with people along the way who don’t believe in her and even try to sabotage her attempts at healing the horse.

Another interesting conflict in the story arises as Amy must decide whether to rely on the alternative therapies she has always practiced or to use her newly acquired veterinary knowledge. This is a warning—if you dislike “Natural Horsemanship” or find the idea of flower essences ridiculous, don’t read this book!

In the end, everything turns out OK, but Amy has learned some tough lessons about herself in the process.    Sara Lieser

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