Sunday, Apr. 14, 2024

Bookshelf – 05/16/08

HORSE: THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE FOR YOUNG EQUESTRIANS.
Libby Hamilton. Candlewick Press, 2067 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02140. 24 pp. Illustrated. 2008. $15.99.

Candlewick Press’ description of their book, Horse: The Essential Guide For Young Equestrians, as “novelty-rich,” is certainly accurate. With kid-friendly fonts, colorful illustrations and lots of interactive features, this reference book for the 3 to 9 age set is sure to please almost any young equine enthusiast.
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HORSE: THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE FOR YOUNG EQUESTRIANS.
Libby Hamilton. Candlewick Press, 2067 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02140. 24 pp. Illustrated. 2008. $15.99.

Candlewick Press’ description of their book, Horse: The Essential Guide For Young Equestrians, as “novelty-rich,” is certainly accurate. With kid-friendly fonts, colorful illustrations and lots of interactive features, this reference book for the 3 to 9 age set is sure to please almost any young equine enthusiast.

Written by Libby Hamilton, the book gives a broad introduction to the horse world, from stable management to riding disciplines to equine careers and history. With stickers, pullout cards and booklets, there’s something special on every page to add to the learning experience. The section on tack boasts a saddle with labeled parts and flip-up flaps, while the “Parts Of A Horse” pages offer a canter flick book, so children can learn the motion of the gait.

While these special physical features are undoubtedly fun for any child, they’re also fragile, and therefore, unfortunately, destined to be destroyed within the first few readings.

But other portions of the book are less likely to be ripped and still equally enjoyable. Eager young readers can participate in quizzes, organize their own toy horse show, and test their knowledge of equine vocabulary. The “Major Horse And Pony Breeds From All Around The World” list is particularly extensive, and the “How To Braid A Tail” section gives kids a chance to get an early start on a skill that requires plenty of practice.

With lots of color and an engaging page design, there’s plenty of visually stimulating educational material to pore over.

There are a few comments in the book that may lead overzealous youngsters to push for more than they’re capable of, as in the description of the gallop as “the fastest and most exciting gait.”

On the whole, though, this book offers a well-balanced introduction, and stresses safety, responsibility and selflessness. “Your horse always comes first,” the final page reminds readers. “Nothing you learn about horses is wasted–grab every chance you can to learn more by watching, reading and helping out.”

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With subjects gradually increasing in complexity, children can continue to learn as they age, so parents of horse-crazy kids are guaranteed to get their money’s worth out of this book.    

Kat Netzler



CHANCEY OF THE MAURY RIVER
.
Gigi Amateau. Candlewick Press, 2067 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02140. 246 pp. 2008. $15.99.

Written in the style of equestrian classics such as Black Beauty and Misty Of Chincoteague, Gigi Amateau’s ambitious Chancey Of The Maury River injects a dose of modernity into the old hard-luck horse story.

The story chronicles the later years of Chancey, an albino Appaloosa who discovers his true calling in a therapeutic riding program after years as an unremarkable and unloved school horse.  As the self-reflective gelding struggles with his encroaching blindness, he finds joy and purpose in helping two young riders.

The book has all the predictable trademarks of a successful young adult equestrian epic: a neglected—and
unusually colored—protagonist, a beautiful rival Arabian named Princess, a close call with colic and a farm where 11-year-olds may take their favorite horses swimming on unaccompanied trail rides. But the story touches on serious issues, including cancer, both human and equine, family strife and euthanasia, lending the book depth and heart with a light-handed touch.

Amateau strikes a refreshing balance in her tale, with writing lucid enough for an ambitious 8-year-old to blaze through on a rainy weekend, but mature enough to hold the attention of the young at heart. Though the book lists its target audience as 10 to 14, I suspect that the sentimental story’s biggest fans may lie a few years shy of that mark.

Unlike so many young adult horse novels, the book doesn’t get bogged down with explaining the ins and outs of horsemanship to non-horsey readers. And because Chancey tells the story, the novel steers clear of the daily tribulations of teenage life that relegate so many of today’s young adult novels—equestrian and otherwise—to the status of one-time-reads rather than dog-eared favorites. 

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While Chancey will fit in nicely on the bookshelf of any literary Pony Clubber, the book may not earn a permanent spot on the shelf alongside the classics past high school. That being said, I can’t imagine a more delightful read, or a better gift, for a young person with a taste for modern literary pony tales.   

Mollie Bailey



A HORSE TO REMEMBER
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Juliana Hutchings. Raven Publishing, Inc., P.O. Box 2866, Norris, MT 59745. 176 pp. 2007. $10.

What makes this enchanting young adult novel so appealing is not only its touching portrayal of a girl and her horse, but also that it was written by a 14-year-old. Hutchings, now 18, wrote A Horse To Remember while in high school, and it was her first novel.

Although I began reading with trepidation after I realized this book had a child author, that fact quickly escaped me as I became immersed in the story of 13-year-old Hilary Thompson and the Mustang Satan.
While this story does have a predictable plot that avid readers of classic horse books will recognize, it’s still an enjoyable novel that draws you into the story. Providing a realistic characterization of the emotional roller coaster that happens at this age.

Hutchings grew up with horses, competes at the preliminary level in eventing, and did an excellent job in providing proper terminology while not over-explaining complex situations. Yet, for readers not as familiar with the terms liverpool, serpentine and snaffle, she provides a useful “Hilary’s Glossary of Horse Terms” at the end of the book.

My one complaint is the unrealistic timeline of the story that takes the novice Hilary from learning how to ride to competing at the Kentucky Horse Park in the “East Coast Junior Jumper Finals” in less than one summer. I just kept repeating to myself that this is a novel, yet I hope less knowledgeable young readers won’t believe this is possible!

Nevertheless, Hutchings did an admirable job, and most any young reader, from age 10 on up, will greatly enjoy this story and realize that, more than anything, it’s about living up to your potential. In fact, in a note to her readers, Hutchings advised, “Determination and persistence can transform any vision into reality. Never abandon your dreams.”    

Tricia Booker

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