Horse Girl  

Wills is a seventh-grader who’s head-over-hoof for horses, and beyond excited when she gets the chance to start training at the prestigious Oakwood Riding Academy. But Amara—the queen of the #HorseGirls—and her posse, aren’t going to let the certifiably dork-tagious Wills trot her way into their club so easily. Between learning the reins of horse riding, dealing with her Air Force pilot mom being stationed thousands of miles from home, and keeping it together in front of (gasp!) Horse Boys, Wills learns that becoming a part of the #HorseGirl world isn’t easy. But with her rescue horse, Clyde, at her side, it sure will be fun.

Wills’s embarrassing father, sensitive sister, and the members of the riding academy combine to make her story relatable and humorous. Every preteen will understand Wills’s desire to make friends as well as the embarrassing moments Wills suffers through. While Horse Girl has plenty of funny moments, readers will connect to Wills and understand her desire to find a place where she belongs. In addition to girl drama, mystery is added when someone begins leaving Wills encouraging notes and Wills begins investigating the members of the riding team.

Wills’s relationship with her parents is another positive aspect of the story. As Wills is trying to navigate life, she often thinks about her mom’s words of wisdom: “she says that whether you’re riding or flying or even just brushing your teeth, you have to be ready for surprises—the happy kind or the sad kind or the refreshingly minty kind. She says if you stop looking for surprises, they’ll stop looking for you—and what fun would life be then?”

The short paragraphs, text bubbles with emojis, and the list of Oakwood friend suspects makes the story engaging and fun. Plus, the text has footnotes that explain the horse terminology. The footnotes also include references that preteens may not know. For example, when Wills compares a rider to the movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s, the footnote says, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s is a movie from a million years ago (aka 1961) starring actress Audrey Hepburn wearing a little black dress and pearls.”

Horse-loving readers will enjoy Horse Girl because horses are a pivotal part of the plot. However, Horse Girl will also appeal to a wide range of readers because of Wills’s relatable conflicts, friendship worry, and embarrassing moments. Wills isn’t afraid to embrace her dorkiness, her frizzy hair, or her love of horses. And in the end, she learns a valuable fact about friendship; “Your friends—even the least expected ones, even the ones you thought were out to get you, and especially the ones with four legs—will be there to help pick you up.”

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • OMG and OMGE are used occasionally.
  • Holy smokes and holy cow are both used as an exclamation once.
  • Heck is used five times.
  • Wills’s father says, “Dang it” once
  • Wills’s sister calls her a weirdo.
  • When Wills is feeling sorry for herself, her dad says, “But you’re behaving like an immature, whiny, selfish. . . brat.”

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • Before Wills’s competition, she takes “a deep breath and says a silent prayer to the #HorseGods.”

 

Hollywood

Juniper dreams of slaying dragons and rescuing villages on the back of her trusty horse, Able. She knows that Able has star quality that will make him perfect for television. And the show she’d love to be on more than anything is Castle McAvoy. Though her dad doesn’t think Able is ready, Juniper decides to take matters into her own hands and help Able make it through an audition, even if it gets them both in a lot of trouble.

Juniper loves her horse and wants him to be a star, which is one reason that she is excited when she’s offered a part as a stunt rider in her favorite show. With Able on her side, Juniper is confident that they can impress the casting director. But once on set, Juniper begins to think that she isn’t as good as the other stunt riders. When she overhears a conversation about the show featuring a spectacular trick, Juniper volunteers to do a dangerous stunt, even though she has never done it before.

Many readers will relate to Juniper’s insecurities and her desire to prove herself. Juniper often wonders, “What if my best isn’t good enough?” Unfortunately, along the way, Juniper isn’t always honest. In the end, Juniper is so desperate to prove herself that she unhooks a safety harness and ends up falling and breaking her arm. The accident teaches Juniper that her and Able’s safety are more important than being on television.

While Hollywood has plenty of horse action, the story also explores Juniper’s relationship with her sister, Rose. When Rose finds out that Juniper is going to be on Castle McAvoy, Rose begins spending more time with Juniper. Rose also encourages Juniper to do the dangerous trick. When Juniper is injured, Rose confesses that she told “those girls at school that you were on the show. . . I did it because none of them wanted to be my friends. . . So I kept telling them about your show so they’d keep liking me.” Rose learns that it was wrong to use her sister to try to impress the popular kids.

Hollywood will appeal to many readers because of the relatable conflicts as well as the focus on becoming a Hollywood star. While Juniper has moments when she is sneaky and dishonest, she learns valuable lessons about the importance of protecting her horse and herself. One positive aspect of the story is Juniper’s two parent family that is supportive and encouraging. Plus, both the children stunt riders and the adults directing the television show encourage Juniper and do not get upset when she doesn’t do the stunts correctly. In the end, Juniper learns that no one is perfect and the best part of being a stunt rider isn’t being on television, it’s being able to work with her horse.

Horse-loving readers will enjoy the American Horse Tales Series because of the wide range of topics. Despite being a series, the books do not need to be read in order because each one focuses on a new character. Readers who want more horse action should gallop to the book store and grab a copy of Fear of Falling by Laurie Halse Anderson.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • OMG is used as an exclamation once.

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • When Juniper is planning to sneak into the horse trailer, she is looking to see where her father is. When she thinks he went to get Able, Juniper “prayed that he’d take a long time.”
  • After sneaking into the trailer, Juniper tells her horse, “Pray that Dad isn’t too mad. But even if he is, when he sees you get that part because I’m here, he’ll forgive me.”

Soul Riders: The Legend Awakens

According to ancient myths, when the Soul Riders and their horses are gathered together, they will be able to defeat the evil that threatens the island. But Lisa and her friends don’t quite understand this yet. And now that Lisa’s horse, Starshine, has been stolen from Jorvik Stables and her father has disappeared, there’s no time to think about old stories. Together with Alex and Linda, Lisa embarks on a dangerous journey into Jorvik’s magical landscape to save Starshine, and to find the answers they are searching for.

At the same time, Anne is on her own mission. She must find her horse, Concorde, who seems to have been transported to the strange and dangerous world of Pandoria. But someone keeps whispering dark lies into Anne’s head that make her doubt if there’s any hope at all for the four girls. . .

The Legend Awakens explores the nature of good and evil; however, after the four Soul Riders realize they have powers, they are confused as to how to use them. The girls do not understand the mythology of Jorvik, yet they are committed to defeating Garnok. Even as the girls fight Mr. Sands—who Garnok has granted eternal life—they don’t understand who Garnok is. Plus, there are several evil beings who serve Garnok, but it is unclear exactly what they are. While the magical world has some interesting elements, the character’s confusion and lack of knowledge will frustrate readers.

The adults helping the soul riders continuously remind the girls about the importance of working together. Despite this, the girls quickly go off on their own mission and lose touch with each other. The multiple viewpoints, along with the quickly changing perspectives gives the story a fast pace. However, some readers will have a difficult time keeping track of the various plot threads.

The story’s complicated plot, unexplained concepts, and lack of character development make The Legend Awakens a confusing story. Nevertheless, readers who are interested in the supernatural may enjoy The Legend Awakens. If you’re looking for an entertaining series about horses, The Legend Awakens will leave you disappointed. Horse-loving readers who want a fast-paced story that revolves around horses should add The Rose Legacy Series by Jessica Day George to their reading list.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • Sands steals Starshine and puts him in an electrified cage. The horse “was tied in place with heavy chains and a shiny stainless steel halter.” When Lisa tries to rescue Starshine, Mr. Sands locks her in a cage next to her horse.
  • Meteor is horse-napped. When Lisa first sees him, she wonders if he is dead. “The crane with Meteor’s lifeless body dangled from the end rolled slowly along. . . He was alive! But he was badly injured. At least one of his hind legs looked broken, and his skin was covered in deep sores.” Lisa uses her magic to heal Meteor.
  • One of the spirit’s horses, Khann, tries to stop Alex and her horse Tin-Can from fleeing. Alex uses her power. Alex “let a bolt of lightning flash out of her and land near him. He whinnied and his black eyes almost rolled into his head. Then he galloped into the woods. . .”
  • When Sabine tries to hurt Linda, Alex attacks with lightening. “The lightning bolts were accompanied by a rumbling noise and a sharp flash of light. . . the lightning hit Sabine but bounced off her like a rubber ball. . . Sabine lifted Linda up by her long, thick braid and spun her around in the air, grinning.” Eventually the lightning effects Sabine and she “fell over the stair railing. Alex heard Sabine curse angrily before she hit the floor with a hard thump, then silence.” The battle is described over three pages.
  • Shadows attack Anne and her horse Concorde. “Concorde whinnied, a prolonged and tormented sound . . . Then came the shadows. They coiled their way around her like a wreath. She realized that the shadow creatures had arms, legs, and big heads that slowly swayed back and forth as they took everything from her that made her who she was. . . And now they were upon her, arms growing, menacing shadows. They tugged at her legs now, groping at Concorde, who desperately tried to rear up and get free. . .” Ann stops fighting and expects to die. The scene is described over two pages.
  • Later, Anne defeats the shadow people. “She took control of the sun, of the clear pink water, of the slowly swaying vines that had made her dizzy before. It all became hers. The ground and the air, and the strange statues that whispered that the world was bigger and more amazing than could have ever suspected.” Anne creates a portal like a “reddish-pink tornado” and leaves the Pandoria and the shadows.
  • Evil beings, including Ketja, chase the four friends into the mountains. Ketja says an incantation and then, “the boulders on the slope were rolling downhill, heading straight for them. . . When the first boulder was only a few seconds away from smashing into them, it exploded. [Anne] closed her eyes and screamed in fear, loudly, a scream that echoed throughout the entire forest.”
  • To escape Ketja and her evil friends, the girls make a bridge collapse. “Anne turned to look back and saw the horses’ legs moving, the riders’ shocked faces as what was left of the bridge gave way underneath them and they all fell, plunging downward along with fragments of the collapsing bridge.” Their pursuers disappear into the ravine. The scene is described over four and a half pages.
  • An owl attacks Anne “ripping at Anne’s hair. . . A big tuff of her long, blonde hair ripped out, caught in the bird’s claws, and she screamed in pain.”

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • Oh my God is used as an exclamation three times.
  • Linda thinks that the people who lived in the 1800s were idiots.
  • Heck and darn are both used once.

Supernatural

  • The Soul Riders are told about Aideen, who “brought light to the island, and life and hope poured forth out of the cold emptiness.”
  • Pandoria is a “world that co-exists with ours. Pandoria’s unreality seeps into our reality and vice versa. That is the essence of magic.”
  • The soul riders are “chosen girls who share a special bond with their horses. Through that bond, they acquire special powers to help them fight against evil.”
  • The girls discover that Mr. Sands has been alive for hundreds of years. Mr. Sands “had met Garnok several hundred years ago and had been granted eternal life then so that he could successfully accomplish just this: the liberation of Garnok.” Garnok is evil; however, it is unclear who or what Garnok is.
  • Jessica is an evil spirit, who has taken a human body. “She hated being stuck in this body. When Garnok was finally set free, she needed to be as well. . . Jessica longed to return to the dark star, back to her life beyond a body, beyond the earth.”
  • One of the girls finds a book titled “Garnok: Truth or Myth.” The book says that Garnok is “a sea monster” that “steals the sailors’ souls.”
  • Later, someone tells the girls that “Garnok is all that is evil. He comes from a place where chaos reigns, and he wants to return there. But before he returns, that chaos and destruction would also be spread through our world.”
  • One of the evil spirits uses the power of her mind to speak into Anne’s consciousness.
  • When an evil spirit chases Linda, Linda hides. “The moonlight flowed into her now and she disappeared in the shade of the far side of the moon. The moon had a back side, and that is a perfect hiding spot.”
  • Fripp is a “cosmic being” that looks like a squirrel. “If you can imagine a blue, slightly overgrown squirrel.”
  • While in Pandoria, Anne uses the sun to help her horse Concorde. “And Anne reached out her hands and took the sun and moved it even deeper into Concorde’s slumbering soul. It was hers to take. She knew that now. It was hot, but it didn’t burn. Nothing could hurt her as long as she had the sun on her side.”
  • While in a swamp, a bright light uses Lisa’s mother’s voice to call to her. “Then she heard it again, the summoning voice. It embraced her heart. She was bewitched by the flickering white flare of light over the dark water. It was so beautiful . . .” Lisa goes into the water. Before she can drown, Alex “shot lightning at the swamp, but the bolts rebounded, veering around in the air with the will-o’-wisps.” Lisa’s friends save her. The scene is described over four pages.
  • Later in the swamp, the horse Calliope falls into the mire. All of the girls “screamed for Calliope now. . . Her legs flailed in panic, creating big ripples in the water, and she screamed, screamed louder than they were screaming, pleading to be rescued.” When Calliope gives up, she “vanished below the surface.”
  • The girls are sent to find a magical apple.

Spiritual Content

  • Linda tries to escape from Sabine, an evil spirit. As she runs, “she locks the door behind her and said a grateful prayer for those extra seconds” which allowed her to avoid Sabine.
  • After being injured, Linda sees Alex and says, “I prayed you would come and you did!”

 

Bo and the Dragon-Pup

Bo Tinseltail lives in Sparklegrove Forest, where lots of other magical creatures live. Bo and the other unicorns learn about dragons at school, but they have never seen them before. That is, until now! A blanket and a pair of glasses go missing from school, and the clues lead to the dragon caves! Will Bo and the other unicorns meet a scary creature there? Or will they make a brand-new friend?

The Unicorn Diaries Series is part of the early chapter book line Branches, which is aimed at newly independent readers. Bo and the Dragon-Pup is told in a blend of diary entries, speech bubbles, lists, and diagrams. The blended text makes the story choppy, but it also makes each page’s text manageable for young readers. Plus, some of the story’s unique, fun words, such as “glitterrific,” appear in large green font. While most of the vocabulary is easy to read, readers may need help with some words such as thingamabob, Mr. Rumtwinkle, and magnifying.

Readers will be attracted to Bo and the Dragon-Pup because of the rainbow of colors used on each page’s illustrations. However, they will keep reading because of the fun format and interesting characters, such as mermaids, talking animals, and a blue ogre. Chapter one introduces the main characters, Sparklegrove forest, and also gives interesting facts about dragons and unicorns.

Bo and the Dragon-Pup is a magical book that revolves around a fast-paced mystery. As the unicorns try to solve the mystery, they follow clues and work together. Readers will fall in love with the mischievous dragon and the helpful unicorns. If you’re looking for a glitterific book that makes reading fun, Bo and the Dragon-Pup is the book for you. Mystery-loving readers should also add Wallace and Grace and the Lost Puppy by Heather Alexander to their reading list.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • A hedgehog tells the unicorns, “A pesky little dragon threw me up in the air like I was a beach ball! Then he giggled and flew that way.”

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • All the unicorns have a special power. Bo is a Wish Unicorn that “can grant one wish every week.” The other unicorns have powers such as flying, healing, shape-shifting, size-changing, etc.
  • Before the unicorns begin to search for clues, “Scarlet used her thingamabob power to magic up detective hats and magnifying glasses for all of us.”
  • The baby dragon, Scorch, wishes that he could make fire. One of the unicorns grants his wish. “Suddenly, Scorch breathed huge rainbow-colored flames.”
  • When Scorch accidentally sets the parade decorations on fire, “Jed used his Unicorn Power to make it rain. He put out the fire in no time.”

Spiritual Content

  • None

Soul Riders: Jorvik Calling

Soul Riders tells the heroic tale of four young girls who have been chosen by destiny to save the world from the ancient demon, Garnok, and his band of dangerous Dark Riders. Lisa is a teenage girl coming to terms with the tragic loss of her mother in a riding accident, who has sworn never to go near a horse again. That is, until she met Starshine, a mysterious blue-maned steed who comes to her in dreams.

New on the island of Jorvik, Lisa befriends Alex, Linda, and Anne. Under the guidance of mystical druids, they discover they each have a special bond to their horses that gives them magical powers. While trying to balance school, family, and friendships, they have to figure out what it means to be a Soul Rider. They are attacked by the Dark Riders and the mysterious Mr. Sands and discover that their horses are in danger. Instead of relying on their combined strength, they decide to split up on their quest to find answers. Will it be too late before they realize their mistake?

Jorvik Calling has a unique premise, but the worldbuilding is choppy and confusing. The story focuses on Lisa. However, the story is told in the first-person point of view, but it jumps from each girl’s perspective. Even though there are four narrators, the girls’ voices are not easy to distinguish from each other. In addition, the perspective often changes within a chapter. The change in perspective adds confusion, breaks up the action, and makes the overall story disconnected.

Even though the book is based on the Star Stable video game, readers who haven’t played the game will enjoy the book. However, the video game players will instantly connect with the book because it gives insight into the lore of Jorvik and the myth of the Soul Riders.

All the girls—Lisa, Alex, Linda, and Anne—are unfamiliar with Jorvik’s lore, which allows the reader to learn about the ancient myth. Because of this, the girls are confused when magic begins coursing through them. Despite this, the girl’s supernatural abilities will capture readers’ attention. The unique blend of horses, magic, and the fight between good and evil will make readers curious about what will happen in the next book in the series, The Legend Awakens.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • Some boys were bullying Alex’s brother. One day, “she found her brother tied to one of the goal posts with jump ropes.” When Lisa saw a bigger boy, she gestured to him to stop. “The moment Alex raised her hand, she felt a burst of energy, there was a bright flash and the guy staggered back as though he’d been pushed.” The boy falls, and when he gets back to his feet, he runs away.
  • A man in a van chases Anne and her horse Concorde. “The headlights shone like death rays in her eyes. . . The terror at the thought of being run over had left her numb. She saw a pink glow behind her eyelids. It was seeking her out, that light.” Anne embraces the light and then, “the SUV ran through her and Concorde—but she wasn’t there. It was as though she was standing outside herself, looking on.” Anne and Concorde are able to escape.
  • Lisa’s dad, Carl, eavesdrops on his boss. Then, “Carl could see two long shadows. . . And then they were on top of him. Two burly men grabbed him by the arms and dragged him toward the ramp. . .” Carl’s whereabouts are unknown, but Lisa just thinks he is working on an important project.
  • When Derek was going home, a girl on horseback tries to ride him down. Derek realizes “she was in fact aiming to force him off the road . . .He could feel the horse’s searing heat against his leg.” Alex appears and Jessica grabs her arm. “Lightening exploded from Alex’s palm and hit Jessica, who collapsed on the ground.” Alex is left with a bleeding arm.

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • “Oh my god” is used as an exclamation three times. For example, Lisa’s father almost hits a girl on a horse. The girl says, “Oh my god, I’m sorry. I didn’t think there would be any cars out this early!”
  • God is used as an exclamation once.
  • A man uses “by the light of Aideen” as an exclamation once.

Supernatural

  • The book begins with a creation story about a girl on horseback. “As she rode slowly across the sea, her horse’s hooves tamed the wild waves beneath her. . .She lay the light down on the island, and life and hope poured out of the cold nothingness.” The island had both light and darkness. “A great darkness hides in the depths of the ocean, biding its time, waiting just a little longer.”
  • Pandoria is a “world that co-exists with ours. Pandoria’s unreality seeps into our reality and vice versa. That is the essence of magic.”
  • The soul riders are “chosen girls who share a special bond with their horses. Through that bond, they acquire special powers to help them fight against evil.”
  • Sabine puts a spell over Herman, who owns the stable. Then Sabine “murmured something, and Lisa’s horse, Starshine, collapses.”
  • When Lisa’s horse, Starshine, collapses, Lisa heals him by placing her hands on him. “She placed them on his clammy neck and lay down with her face next to his. . . The birthmark on her cheek prickled and burned. A melody, at once strange and familiar, flowered through her like a trickling brook.” As she sings, Lisa feels an energy that “shimmered blue, pink and purple.” The energy heals Starshine.
  • Starshine breaks his leg. Lisa thought about calling for help, but “then a glow began to fill the air. . . The strange glow slowly rose through the air in twisting tendrils.” The lights dance in a pattern. “Now a strong light was shining from the palm of her hand. . . Beneath her hand, she could feel Starshine’s leg aligning. There was crackling, trembling, and dancing underneath his skin.” Starshine is completely healed. The scene is described over two pages.
  • Lisa meets a woman in the woods. Afterwards, Lisa hears a voice say, “This is your gift. To heal and care for the injured and sick. Use your gift well.”
  • An evil man can speak to Garnok directly through a portal. The man “wants to see those miserable horses (the Soul Rider’s horses) devoured in the eternal prison of Pandoria.” It is not clear who Garnok is.
  • Lisa and her friends take a night ride where they “were going to ride in Aideen’s footsteps and seek the Flame of Jor, the spark that, according to legend, brought life to the island.” The girls talk about the legend. “During an excavation in the Northern Mountains, carvings showing four riders were found on the cave wall . . . a local historian at Jorvik University later identified [the symbols] as a sun, a star, a moon, and a lightning bolt. The symbols are thought to be the source of the Soul Riders’ power and strength.”
  • Lisa sees a vision of her dead mother. “Lisa ran as fast as she could, but she saw her mother fade away before her very eyes.”
  • Linda, one of the Soul Riders, “had known things she shouldn’t have been able to know. . . [Her aunt] called it a premonition, a gift from the gods.” Later, “a darkness spread through Linda. Suddenly, she was no longer in the warm club room . . . but far out to sea. It was dark and cold.” When her friend calls her name, Linda snaps out of the trance.
  • Alex’s horse, Concorde, becomes transparent and slowly fades away. Later, Alex learns that he is in another realm.
  • Anne meets Fripp. “The creature’s fur was blue and shiny; its eyes were large and almost entirely black. Its tail was big and fluffy. If she had to describe it, she would have said it looked like an unusually big squirrel.”
  • Anne discovers that she can create a portal to Pandoria.
    Spiritual Content
  • The Soul Riders are told about druids. “They’re called the Keepers of Aideen and are philosophers, you might say, with a close relationship with the four elements: fire, water, air and earth. . . They live in the service of the goddess Aideen.”

 

Stormy, Misty’s Foal

A raging storm slashes across Assateague and the Chincoteague islands. Water is everywhere! The wild ponies and the people must battle for their lives.

In the midst of the storm, Misty—the famous mare of Chincoteague—is about to give birth. Paul and Maureen are frantic with worry as the storm rages on…will Misty and her colt survive? This is the story of the hurricane that destroyed the wild herds of Assateague, and how strength and love helped rebuild them.

Readers looking for a good horse story will be disappointed in Stormy, Misty’s Foal. Throughout the story, people talk about Misty and worry about Misty, but Misty appears for only a brief time. Stormy, Misty’s Foal is similar to a survival story because it focuses on Paul’s and Maureen’s experiences with the hurricane. While the story has some tense moments, the realistic story has little action and readers may quickly become bored.

Paul and Maureen are both hard-working children who rarely complain. Throughout the hurricane, the community comes together to help those in need. While the main characters have positive attributes, none of the supporting characters are memorable. In addition, readers may have a difficult time understanding the colloquial language spoken by many of the characters. For example, Grandma says, “This ain’t easy, but I got eenamost enough to make a nice pot of cocoa.”

Readers looking for a story of action and adventure will be disappointed by Stormy, Misty’s Foal. The focus on Misty will become tedious especially for those who did not read Misty of Chincoteague. Even though Paul and Maureen have many positive attributes, their story is not unique or engaging. Readers who want a story that focuses more on horses should skip Stormy, Misty’s Foal.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • The storm floods much of the island and many animals are pulled out to sea. Paul “was staring, horror-struck, at the neighbors’ houses. Some had collapsed. And some had their front porches knocked off so they looked like faces with a row of teeth missing. And some were tilted at a crazy slant.”
  • In order to keep people from loitering, “Grim soldiers were patrolling the watery streets, rifles held ready.”
  • Grandpa helps to load the corpses of the dead horses. He says, “That all the days of my life I’ll hear that slow creakin’ of the crane liftin’ up the dead ponies, and I’ll see their legs a-swingin’ this way and that like they was still alive and kickin’.”
  • While the men were cleaning up the dead animals, the preacher “put up a prayer to the memory of the wild free things.”

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • Grandpa sees one of his stallions dead and says, “Oh God!”

Supernatural

  • Grandpa says, “A goose washin’ in the horse trough/ Means tomorrow we’ll be bad off.” Grandpa’s uncle told him that “geese in the trough is a fore-doomer of a storm.”

Spiritual Content

  • Paul and Maureen tell their grandma a verse from the Bible in the hopes of missing a day of school. The two kids say, “There’s a time to sow and a time to reap. . .There’s a time to cry and a time to laugh. . .There’s a time to love and a time to hate. . .There’s a time to go to school and a time to stay home.”
  • When the storm starts, Grandpa “began to pray for all the wild things out on a night like this.”
  • Paul and his grandpa go out into the store and Paul prays, “Please, God, take the sea back where it belongs. Please take it back.”
  • When Paul and his grandpa make it home, Grandma exclaims, “Praise be the Lord! I been so worried I couldn’t do a lick o’ work. Just sat by the window praying double-quick time.”
  • To keep everyone’s spirits up, Grandma sings a hymn. “Jesus, Savior, pilot me, Over life’s tempestuous sea; Unknown waves before me roll, Hiding rock and treacherous shoal; Chart and compass come from Thee; Jesus, Savior, pilot me.”
  • Maureen is dismayed that she can’t help more. She asks, “Why was I born a girl?” Grandma says, “It’s God’s plan.”
  • The men prepare to go back to the island. Grandpa says, “But I say the Lord helps them as helps theirselves.”
  • When Grandpa starts to cry, Grandma says, “Let the tears out if they want to come. King David in the Bible was a strong man and he wept copiously.”
  • Grandpa and his kids sing Glory, Glory, halleluiah.
  • Grandpa, Grandma, and the kids go to church. The preacher says, “The earth is the Lord’s. He hath founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the floods. . . God is in the rescue business and every believer is a member of His rescue forces.” The church scene is described over three pages.

 

My First Pony

Follow the true adventures of Abbie and her first pony, Sparkle (a beautiful Palomino), in her diary. Yes, Abbie is a horse mad girl, and when she gets her first pony all her dreams come true.

When Abby “first saw Sparkle, I knew that she was the pony for me! As soon as she cantered across the paddock, I think we both knew that we were meant to be together. But I certainly wasn’t prepared for the exciting adventures ahead.”

In My First Pony, Katrina is eight years old and her life revolves around horses and friends. While some of the story is interesting, Katrina isn’t very likable because everything is filtered through her eyes only. In addition, she wants other people to be jealous of her. For example, Katrina wants to tell her classmates about Sparkle winning ribbons in a gymkhana. She writes, “I can’t wait till school goes back and I can tell all my friends about her—they’ll be so jealous.” While Katrina may love horses, she doesn’t sound like the best horse owner. When Sparkles gets injured, Katrina is upset that “now I can’t even use my new Wintec because the cut on her side is right in the saddle area.”

The story is written in a diary format and often jumps from topic to topic without transitioning. This format doesn’t allow Katrina to explain who people are in relation to her. She also doesn’t explain any of the horse terms. Interwoven into the story are black and white photographs which mostly show horses. However, the pictures don’t always correspond with the diary entry. For example, one picture shows a girl “being a rock star! Ha Ha Ha!”

Readers who are “mad” about horses may enjoy My First Pony; however, with the plethora of horse books to choose from, you may want to leave this book sitting on the shelf.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

 

Ashlords #1

Ever since the Ashlords were gifted phoenix horses by their gods, they’ve raced them into battle, on hunts, and now at the world-renowned Races.

Elite riders from clashing cultures vie to be crowned champion by honing their ability to create and control phoenix horses, which are made of ash and alchemy—they’re summoned to life each sunrise and burst into flames each sunset. But good alchemy only matters if a rider knows how to survive the brutal nights. While murder is outlawed, breaking bones and poisoning the ashes of your competition are legal, even encouraged. Eleven riders will compete in this year’s races, but three of them have more to lose than the rest.

Imelda is a Dividian—too poor to afford the cost of entry until her alchemy videos created a media storm that throws her headfirst into the competition as a fan favorite.

Pippa is an Ashlord—the ruling class—and the expected winner. But when she falls for a competitor, will she ruin her chances of inheriting the crown?

Adrian is a Longhand—known for their vast wealth and failed rebellion. He is a symbol of revolution and the last chance for his people to rise against the Ashlords.

Ashlords is an intense book that questions the role of the ruling class, the Ashlords. The story is told from the point of view of three characters—Imelda, Pippa, and Adrian. While Imelda’s and Adrian’s chapters are written in the first-person point of view, Pippa’s chapters are written in the second-person point of view. While this helps distinguish Pippa from the other characters, using “you” is disconcerting. And even though the reader understands the characters’ motives, none of them are relatable.

In the process of setting up the Ashlords’ world, Reintgen piles on a lot of information about the characters’ complicated society. In addition, there are many references to the Ashlords’ gods helping them win a war, but the backstory isn’t fully developed, which causes confusion. Some readers will struggle with the amount of information that is packed into the first part of the book.

Readers who are drawn to the Ashlords in the hopes of reading a good horse story will be disappointed. Instead of focusing on the horses, the Race’s brutal fight scenes take center stage. The book’s descriptions of the Ashlords’ religion and politics also becomes tedious. While the book discusses class differences, the reason the Longhands want to revolt is unclear. Ashlords focus is on the impending revolution and the violence of the Race. If you want a good horse story without violence and war, Ashlords is not the book for you.

 Sexual Content

  • On Imelda’s birthday, an Ashlord overlord named Oxanos forces Imelda to dance with him. Imelda dances with him but embarrasses him during the dance. She thinks, “He asked for the dance, and we all know how he intended it to go. He wanted to press his hips to mine for a few minutes. He wanted to make my father’s skin crawl, to bury my family’s honor with a smile.”

Violence

  • A group meet in order to plan a rebellion, but Maggie confesses to being a traitor. After Maggie grabs a knife, Adrian brings his “elbow up and across. The blow sends her staggering to the ground. . . I have the sword at her neck. She goes still, her chest heaving, eyes wide and defeated.” Maggie’s fate is not disclosed.
  • Pippa is giving an interview when a viewer takes control of a mannequin. “The mannequin lunges out of its chair. . . Your eyes widen as the metallic hand reaches for your throat. . . The machine’s fail safe system hums to life and the hands hang lifelessly in the air, just a few inches from your neck.”
  • In the past, a Longhand entered the Races but, “He was beaten to death just before the second leg began. A team of Ashlords took their time killing him.” The showman who interviewed the Longhand was also killed.
  • After a rebellion, the Ashlords “purged” the Longhands by killing everyone who fought against them as well as 907 first-born children. Adrian’s mother was a first born who was hiding. Adrian’s father “killed the first Ashlord they sent for her. . . She took the blame when they came back since they were going to take her anyway.” The Ashlords kill her, but the death is not described.
  • The Race is a bloody battle to the finish line. Contestants aren’t allowed to kill each other, but violence is expected. The below excerpts do not contain all of the book’s violence.
  • During the Race, Revel, an Ashlord contestant, attacks Adrian. Adrian’s whip “snakes through the air and snaps along the back of Revel’s neck. Revel cries out in agony.” The horses “collide—our legs smashing between flanks—as my horse rips into the neck of Revel’s phoenix. The impact shoves us back apart, but not without blood. It sprays through the air and my horse trembles with excitement.” Revel slows down and stays behind Adrian.
  • Pippa’s boyfriend, Bravos, kills his phoenix. Bravos “sets a trusting hand on the creature’s neck and puts his full weight into a deadly thrust. Metal bites through muscle and past bone, finding its mark. There’s a single, terrible scream.”
  • During the race, Adrian goes to pass Imelda and he brings “the switch across her temple. It’s far from a killing blow, but more than enough to spin her unconscious to the ground.” When Imelda wakes up, she has “a knot on [her] head that’s the size of an apple. I rub at it and wince. Still light-headed, I stumble over to my ashes. . .” Imelda discovers that her horse’s ashes have been poisoned.
  • A group of Ashlords ride up to Adrian. One of the contestants uses her whip to try to get Adrian to “move me right or left. . . I [Adrian] let the whip catch me across the shoulder as I step into a brutal strike of my own. . . My blow crushes the side of her knee, and there’s enough force behind it to shatter everything. Her screams tear the night in two. . .” The other two Ashlords ignore their fallen comrade and instead, go after Adrian. “Two shots to the ribs, another glancing blow off my shoulder.”
  • The Ashlords and Adrian continue to try to injure each other. The girl is “finally back on her feet, and her eyes go wide when she sees me coming. She thrust her baton up, but I sweep low and smash her knee a second time. She screams.” Finally, Adrian stumbles and the two remaining Ashlords attack him. “A shot to the head, quick and dazing. A second to the ribs, a third to the knee. They can’t swing as hard as I can, but that doesn’t stop them from turning me into something small.” When Adrian can no longer fight back, the Ashlords go to help their friend.
  • Adrian sneaks into a cave where the Ashlords are camping for the night. Adrian attacks the closest one, a boy named Capri. “My lowered shoulder shoves him accidentally toward the edge. He screams and I reach for him in a panic, trying to keep him from falling. . . He vanishes with a scream.”
  • After Capri is out of the way, Adrian attacks the next boy. “I sweep the blow left with my off-hand and punch my own baton into his throat. The wood catches him hard and folds him in on himself. . . I bring the switch down on his knee, then his hip, then his nose. There’s no mercy in the strength of my arm or in the accuracy of each strike.” When the boy is unconscious, Adrian leaves.
  • Imelda leaves the Race route and the Ashlords come after her. But Imelda’s people—a group of desert Dividian’s—appear. Both sides begin shooting at each other. Imelda watches “the desperados break forward, then scatter away from the oncoming Ashlord. Her sword bites down, past a raised spear and sends blood splaying out from the throat. The man dies. . .” The battle is described over several chapters and men on both sides die.
  • While traveling through a cave, Pippa discovers an angry wraith. Pippa brandishes a whip. “A crack sounds as the blow lands just above the wraith’s right eye. It snarls.” Pippa whips the wraith several more times and then “the beast disappears.”
  • When Capri steals Adrian’s purebred phoenix, his horse geos up in flames. Adrian “can hear Capri’s screams. The heat’s so intense that I have to stop well away. All I can do is watch as fire consumes both horse and rider.”
  • While racing to the finish line, Adrian was close to winning. But then, “a girl’s ghostly features darken by a savage growl. I’m helpless as an invisible arm wraps around my neck, and the impact wrenches my feet from the stirrups, and something tears me out of the saddle.” Adrian is not injured, but he loses the Race.

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • At a birthday party, the men drink whiskey.
  • While talking about his wife’s death, Adrian’s father “takes a long swallow of wine.”
  • During a racing event, a stranger gives Adrian a drink. When the man isn’t looking, Adrian switches drinks. After taking a drink of the poisoned drink, the stranger dies.
  • During the Race several of the horse’s ashes are poisoned.

Language

  • Damn and hell are used occasionally.
  • Gods and dear gods are used as an exclamation occasionally.
  • A man asks Adrian, “How are you liking this pisshole?”
  • When Imelda’s horse’s ashes are poisoned, she says, “Wormwood. That jackass used wormwood.”

Supernatural

  • Phoenix horses were gifts from the Ashlords’ gods. The phoenixes are made of ash and alchemy, and people mix different components into the horse’s ashes to bring out specific characteristics. Imelda mixes different components into the phoenix’s ashes and then “sunlight spills over the plain. I take a step back and hear the obvious gasp of a creature coming to life. My pile of ash stirs within movement. . . I see my phoenix starting to take form, a dark inconsistent mass. . . I shield my eyes as a glorious figure staggers free of the storm.”
  • At a birthday party, the Dividian children try to catch a dreamnot. When the dreamnots are touched, they disappear. “Only one of the dreamnots in the room is actually the real one. Tradition says that the child who catches it gets to make a wish.” When someone wishes on a dreamnot, “his wish will not come true unless he sets it free again.”

Spiritual Content

  • The Dividians sailed to the Ashlord’s “land centuries ago, intending to conquer. Only we failed. With the help of their gods, the Ashlords defeated our ancestors.”
  • The Ashlords “bow to the gods,” but the Dividians and the Longhand do not worship the Ashlord gods. The Longhands do not worship the gods because the “Ashlord gods offer many things, freedom is not one of them. It is a relationship of bondage.” The Longhands also refuse to make blood sacrifices to the gods.
  • The Ashlord gods include: Fury, the god of strength and bravery; Curiosity, the god who wakes, watches and whispers; The Butcher, the Hoarder, and the Dread. Plus, the creator of progress, the Striving.
  • The Ashlords believe the “Brightness” is the “people’s link to the gods themselves.”
  • One of the Ashlord gods, The Dread, takes over a priest’s body. Adrian sees “the disturbing scars that start at the base of the priest’s neck. A scaled mast treads directly into the skin. Those protective scales enclose the human head completely.”
  • The Dread offers Adrian a boon. The Dread explains, “The blessing I just offered will bring swift healing. Sturdier bones. Less bleeding. It will keep you alive.”
  • Pippa’s mother wakes her in the dead of the night and takes her though a secret passage. Pippa’s mother makes a blood sacrifice. The god “gives an approving nod as she holds it [her hand] out over the alter. In the light of your candle, blood drips over the stones. The Madness licks his lips, tongue slavering.” Pippa’s mother cuts her and adds her blood to the stones.”
  • Pippa is upset that her mother uses a blood sacrifice. Her mother says, “The gods move between our world and the one below. . . In the underworld, our blood gives them power. They take our sacrifices and use them to rule those forsaken lands. In return, they offer us the powers of their world.” The scene is described over three pages.
  • During the Race, a spirit of a girl appears to Pippa. In exchange for her freedom, the spirit agrees to help Pippa win the race. The spirit can sometimes hear Pippa’s thoughts.
  • After Imelda’s horse is poisoned, Adrian prayed that Imelda “doesn’t get herself killed” by riding the horse.

Wild Thing

Twelve-year-old Winnie Willis loves horses—just like her mother did. But since her mom died two years ago, Winnie, her sister, Lizzy, and her father have moved five times. Winnie never cared much—until now. She has a chance to buy the horse of her dreams at an upcoming action—but how will she even earn enough money? More importantly, how can she possibly convince her dad not to move them to another town. . . again?

After the death of Winnie’s mother, Winnie feels as if the accident that killed her mom was her fault. But when Winnie begins working with a frightened horse, Wild Thing, Winnie uses the same methods that her mother taught her. As Winnie shows Wild Thing unconditional love and trust, Winnie begins to process her own feelings. With the help of new friends, Winnie learns that “God in his gracious kindness declares us not guilty. Jesus didn’t die for nothing!”

Told from Winnie’s perspective, Wild Thing explores themes of friendship, death, unconditional love, and trust. Through prayer, Winnie explores her conflicting emotions. In addition, Winnie explains the methods that she uses to “gentle” Wild Thing. The connection between Wild Thing’s healing and Winnie’s healing is made clear—both of them need to learn that they are loved, and they can trust God.

One positive aspect of the story is that Winnie explains horse terms in a simple way that readers will understand. As Winnie works with the horse, she explains the horse terminology in a way that naturally blends with the text. Plus, the back of the book includes a diagram of the parts of a horse, a dictionary of the different ways horses talk, and includes other horse-related terms.

Wild Thing is an easy-to-read story that blends horse action with Winnie’s personal struggle. Along the way, Winnie meets a variety of people who are all a little bit quirky. While none of the supporting characters are well-developed, their kindness shows how a community of people can help each other. Through Winnie’s prayers and Bible verses, the story highlights God’s unconditional love without being preachy. Wild Thing will entertain readers as well as reinforce Biblical truths.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • A character is called an idiot three times. For example, when Winnie accidentally throws manure on a girl, the girl asks, “Did you see this idiot throw Towasco’s manure all over me?’

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • Winnie believes in God and often thinks about his words. For example, Winnie’s mom used to say, “Winnie Willis, in the beginning God created heaven and earth and horses. And sometimes I have to wonder if the good Lord shouldn’t have quit while he was ahead.”
  • Often, Winnie prays to God telling him about her emotions and her wants. For example, Winnie prays, “I know we haven’t had much to say to each other lately, since Mom’s. . .well, you know. . .it’s tough to talk to you. So I’m sorry to be coming just because I want something. But I guess you already know—I want that Arabian. I want to love her. I want her more than anything in my whole life. . .except for wanting Mom back.”
  • Winnie gives a prayer of thanks four times. For example, when Winnie thinks God answered a prayer, she prays, “Did you do this, God? If you did, thanks.”
  • Winnie and her sister have two framed needlepoints hanging on their wall. One says, “For your unfailing love is as high as the heavens. Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds. –Psalm 57:10.” The other needlepoint reads, “God in his gracious kindness declares us not guilty. Jesus didn’t die for nothing!”
  • When a neighbor drops by to see Winnie, the woman says, “I’ll be praying for you and that horse!”
  • Winnie doesn’t think God understands her pain. Her sister tells her, “Jesus lived inside skin like ours, so he’d understand. He knows, Winnie. And he loves you. You have to believe God loves you.”
  • When Winnie worries about the cost of raising a horse, her dad says, “Your mother always said God’s love could see us through anything. All things are possible with God, right?”

 

Koda

Set in Independence, Missouri in 1846, Koda is a bay quarter horse with a white blaze. He loves to explore the countryside and run free with his human friend, Jasmine. But after Koda sets out with Jasmine’s family on a long and dusty wagon train journey on the Oregon Trail, he finds out what is truly important to him. Here is Koda’s story . . . in his own words.

The first part of the book focuses on Koda, a newborn colt, who is already curious. His curiosity gets him into trouble and his mother has to remind him, “Curious is good. Foolish is not!” Koda must learn how to navigate the world, avoid prey, and interact with humans. Readers who love horses will enjoy Koda’s growth from a newborn colt to a two-year-old.

The second part of the book focuses on the Oregon Trail. The story teaches about some of the hardships of the Oregon Trail, including interactions with Native Americans and illnesses. Some of the people on the wagon train caught cholera. “And then one day, a little child became sick. She got sick in the morning and was dead by nighttime. Then more children sickened and died, and grown people, too, old ones and young ones, mamas and papas.” Even though some people die, Jasmine and her father make it to their new home and are hopeful about the future.

Koda is accessible to many readers because of the large font and black and white illustrations that appear every 5 to 6 pages. The illustrations help readers understand the plot as well as see the clothing of the time period. The Appendix has eight pages with more information about quarter horses.

Readers who love horses and are interested in the Oregon Trail will enjoy reading Koda. However, readers who love action and adventure may quickly become bored with the story. None of the human characters are well developed which will make it difficult to connect to them. While Jasmine’s journey contains some danger, her character will be quickly forgotten. Advanced readers ready for a longer book with a more advanced plot should read the Riders of the Realm Series by Jennifer Lynn Alvarez.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • Koda sees a mountain lion that “leaped off the top of that rock. It came at me. It was all fur and twitching ears and claws that stretched out toward me. And it had a foul smell.” Mama horse leads the mountain lion away from Koda.
  • When introducing Koda to the herd, “Mama was busy making it plain to the other horses who was the boss of me. She kept shoving and nudging at the ones who came up to inspect me, and a few times, she took a little nip at the side of the bigger ones who got too pushy.”
  • Koda gets angry and “nipped” at a girl.
  • Jasmine, who is dehydrated, lays on the ground and buzzards begin to circle her. Koda “roared up to the buzzard, rearing up on my hind legs, boxing furiously with my front hooves. The creature just hopped backward, out of my reach, flapping its nasty wings.”

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • After an encounter with Native Americans, “some folks said that Jasmine and the Indians had brought us good luck.”

Spiritual Content

  • None

 

 

Princess Lessons

Sasha, a flying horse, has just discovered that she is princess of the flying horses! But before she can attend to any royal duties, she has to take a difficult Princess Test. To make matters worse, plant pixies are trying to capture Sasha so they can use her magic wings. If the pixies steal too many feathers, a flying horse becomes too weak to fly. Can Sasha pass the Princess Test and stop the pixies from stealing the flying horses’ feathers?”

Verdant Valley is a magical place where horses live. However, danger is at Verdant Valley’s door. In order to help, Sasha studies to pass her Princess Test. However, the skills that Sasha learns aren’t skills of character. In order to pass the Princess Test, Sasha “pranced and flew. She ate and drank in a princess-y way. She won the staring contest. Flowers stayed in her mane when she ran. She remembered the ancient battles and the song of the giant snail.” While young readers will enjoy the tale, the story portrays Sasha as a typical princess who needs to be “fancy.”

Princess Lessons shows the importance of not keeping a secret if the secret puts someone else in danger. When Sasha prepares to leave Crystal Cover, Sasha asks her friend, Kimai, to keep a secret. However, Kimai tells the secret to the safety patrol. At first, Sasha is upset that Kimai didn’t keep the secret. Kimai says, “I am your friend. I broke my promise only because it’s not safe for you to leave.” Later Sasha forgives Kimai and realizes her friend did the right thing.

Princess Lessons has a high-interest topic—horses and pixies. The story’s nine short chapters, large font, and black-and-white illustrations make Princess Lessons accessible to young readers. Plus, the book’s large illustrations will help readers understand the plot.

Young readers will relate to Sasha as she tries, and fails, to learn new skills. While Sasha does not always do what’s right, she clearly cares about others. The conclusion ends abruptly, without solving the problem of the plant pixies, so readers will be eager to see what happens in the next book, The Plant Pixies. If you’re looking for a book series that young readers will love, the Tales of Sasha series will keep readers engaged with 12+ books to choose from.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • When Sasha tries to leave Crystal Cover, two green horses “threw two long, silver ribbons at her. One ribbon wrapped around one of her hind legs. The other ribbon wrapped around her nose. . . Together, the green horses gently pulled Sasha down to the Crystal Cove beach.” The two horses were trying to protect Sasha.

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • A spell was put over Verdant Valley to keep the plant pixies away, but “the spell must have been broken when you went through the big trees.”

Spiritual Content

  • None

 

My Pony

A little girl dreams of owning a horse, but her parents say no. That doesn’t stop the little girl from dreaming about having a pony. She begins to draw her horse, who she names Silver. Using her imagination, the girl flies into the night sky, rides through the woods, and races with a herd. Through it all, Silver is always with her.

Anyone who loves horses should read My Pony, which shows that a child can use their imagination to “journey anywhere and do anything—even fly to the stars on her very own pony.” Each beautiful illustration includes horses of all kinds, like toys horses, real horses, and the girl’s horse drawings. When the girl dreams about horses, the illustrations show the magical places the girl and her horse travel to, such as the woods with trees full of candy. The girl’s love for horses is apparent in every picture.

Even though My Pony is a picture book, the story is intended to be read aloud to a child, rather than for the child to read it for the first time independently. Each page has 1 to 5 sentences and a large illustration. The detailed illustrations use soft colors to highlight the girl’s love of horses. Readers may want to try to find all of the different horses in each illustration.

Anyone who has had an unfulfilled dream will relate to the girl, who wants her own pony. While the girl’s dream of owning a horse does not come true, she is still happy because she can always ride her imaginary horse, Silver. “Silver waits just outside my window. Always.”

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

 

The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses

The Girl Who Loves Horses is a Navajo folktale about a plains girl who loves horses. During a storm, the horses become frightened. The girl grabbed a horse’s mane and jumped on its back. The horses galloped until the storm disappeared. But when the horses stopped, the girl knew they were lost. Despite this, the girl is happy living with the horses.

After a year, some hunters see the girl and the horses. They try to catch them. When the girl’s horse stumbles, the hunters catch the girl and take her home. Both the girl and the horses are sad because they miss each other. In the end, the girl returns to live with the horses. “Once again the girl rode beside the spotted stallion. They were proud and happy together. But she did not forget her people. Each year she would come back.”

The Girl Who Loved Horses was awarded the Caldecott Medal to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children. The illustrations highlight the relationship between nature and the Native Americans. Goble creates beautiful images using rich, earth-toned colors. The illustrations use intricate details that include flora and fauna. Plus, the detailed pictures will help young readers understand the story and highlight the girl’s love of horses.

Even though The Girl Who Loved Horses is a picture book, the story is intended to be read aloud to a child, rather than for the child to read it for the first time independently. Each page has 4 to 9 complex sentences. Because some of the pages are text-heavy and have advanced vocabulary, younger readers may have a hard time getting through the story.

The girl’s story reinforces the idea that humanity and nature are connected. While the story may be difficult for younger readers to understand, parents and teachers can use the story to discuss the importance of protecting the earth. The Girl Who Loved Horses would be an excellent book for readers who want to learn more about Native American culture and their love of horses.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • When the hunters could not find the girl, they believed “the girl had surely become one of the wild horses at last.”

Spiritual Content

  • None

 The Rider’s Reign

Anthea and her friends arrive in Kronenhof on a mission. They have two weeks to find the missing Coronami princess—kidnapped by Anthea’s mother and taken to the neighboring land—before Coronam declares war. On top of that, Anthea’s mother has also captured the herd stallion and half a dozen more horses—enough to start her own herd in Kronenhof.

But navigating the court politics of a foreign country proves to be more difficult than Anthea imagined. Will Anthea and her companions be able to outmaneuver her mother, who has always been one stop ahead of them? And what should they do about the rumors of wild horses in Kronenhof’s forest?

The Rider’s Reign focuses less on the horses and more on political intrigue. However, in order to better understand the horse’s emotions, some chapters are told from a specific horse’s point of view. To distinguish the point of view, the horse’s name appears at the top of the chapter and these chapters have grey borders around the page. Anthea and her friends are trying to find the ghosts, a mysterious group of horses that hide in the forest. However, when the ghost horses are found, the scene feels anticlimactic and unimportant because nothing is revealed. Instead, Anthea has a short conversation with the horses and then slips back into the forest.

Anthea and her group travel to Kronenhof and meet some interesting new characters. The main villain, the emperor of Kronenhof, is underdeveloped and unrealistic. Everyone around him, including the two teens who he kidnapped, pretend that they are willing visitors, which makes no sense. Despite this, readers will enjoy the familiar faces of the characters. In addition, the story contains several surprises, and, in the end, the villains get what they deserve.

The Rose Legacy Trilogy has a unique premise that will appeal to readers who love horses. Readers will have to pay close attention to understand the political intrigue and the complicated plot. In addition, the large cast of characters may confuse some readers. While the concluding book, The Rider’s Reign, doesn’t tie up all the loose ends, the conclusion will satisfy middle-grade readers.

If you’re looking for a horse-related book with a strong female character, The Rose Legacy Trilogy will delight you. Anthea is a likable heroine, who is willing to make sacrifices in order to save her friends. Anthea has the strength to stand by her principles, care for the horses, and act when necessary. The Rose Legacy Trilogy is an entertaining series that readers of all ages will enjoy. Horse loving readers will also like the Riders of the Realm Trilogy by Jennifer Lynn Alvarez.

Sexual Content

  • The horse Bluebell says, “My mother’s name is Posey. My father’s name does not matter. I wish to have a foal when we return home. It is time.”

Violence

  • The emperor of Kronenhof kidnaps Prince Adil. Adil says, “I was kidnapped, my tutor killed, and I was brought here. . . As long as I am here, my father will not attack.”
  • Lady Cassandra is afraid of horses because she saw “a sweet young man—a boy really—was trampled by his horse. The creature simply turned on him, for no reason. Every bone in his body must have been broken; if he lived, he surely never walked again!” Cassandra doesn’t know what happened to the man.
  • When the emperor of Kronenhof tried to touch Constantine, the horse “had bitten him, had tried to kick and trample him. The bite, alas, was the only blow that connected. Constantine regretted, too, that he had not bitten the man’s hand clean off.”
  • A soldier was standing by the door guarding Meg. Jilly opens the door and “there was a crack and a thud as the soldier fell on his face. . . Jilly jumped over the soldier’s prone form to Meg.” The girls “drag the unconscious man to the bed and stuff him underneath, pushing with their feet.”
  • The emperor of Kronenhof and Anthea’s mother stole some horses and locked them in a basement. When Anthea finds them, Constantine “had long bloody streaks on his flanks where he had been whipped.” To free the horses, someone creates a diversion by blowing up some vehicles. “The explosion came right as Anthea slid back down the chute. It knocked her sideways off the ramp, and she hit her bruised hip on a coal bin, giving a sharp cry of pain and surprise.”
  • When Anthea and her friends try to free the horses, Anthea’s mother appears. “Elegant, understated, and with a pistol pointed at her daughter.” In order to manipulate Anthea, her mother threatens to shoot the horses.
  • While the emperor of Kronenhof and a large group are traveling through the city, someone throws a grenade. Florin “reared up and dumped the emperor onto the hard cobbles of the street.” The crowds “were screaming, scattering, their faces terrified. . . More gunshots came. The crowd was running in all directions, screaming. . .”
  • During the explosions, a man shoots someone, and “the man dropped like a marionette with its strings cut.”
  • Florin takes Anthea away from the crowds. At the sound of an explosion, “heat and noise slammed into Anthea’s back just seconds after Florin shot down a side street.” The explosions are described over eight pages. One man dies, but there are no other injuries.

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • When Anthea was nervous, she was acting strange. Someone asked her, “Did you sneak some champagne?”

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • People who have “the Way” can communicate with horses and feel the horse’s emotions. “The Way wasn’t a language of words so much as images, odors, and feelings.”
  • There are stones around the city that make it so people and horses are not able to use the Way to communicate with each other.

Spiritual Content

  • While imprisoned in Kronenhof Anthea “was sure she wasn’t the only one saying a silent prayer to find the elusive ghosts [horses] soon.”
  • During a parade, the emperor rides a horse. “Anthea prayed that the experience would convince Emperor Wilhelm that he did not want a horse.”

Stolen! A Pony Called Pebbles

Amy lives and breathes horses, but all her horses are in books or in her head. When Amy goes on a picnic with her friend Hannah’s family and hears a horse neigh nearby, Hannah thinks Amy is imagining things. But then Hannah hears a neigh, too! What is a horse doing in the park? With a little help from Mona at the Rainbow Street Shelter, Amy makes sure the horse is safe and sound. She almost hopes the owner never turns up, so that she can keep visiting the pony . . .

Amy and Hannah don’t know it, but two thieves have horesenapped Midnight and his companion, Pebbles. To cover their crime, the thieves disguised Midnight, then leave Pebbles in the forest! Left alone, Pebbles is hot and hungry. He wonders if anyone will find him.

Stolen! A Pony Called Pebbles will steal the hearts of anyone who loves horses. The beginning of the book alternates between Amy’s and Pebbles’ perspectives. While some readers will have some difficulty with the transitions, the changing point of view creates suspense. Plus, Amy is a relatable and likable protagonist who dreams of owning a horse, even though the dream is completely unrealistic for her family. When Amy finds the horsenapped Pebbles, her kindness shines. Amy’s story highlights the importance of doing what is right, even if the act is not rewarded.

Younger readers may need help with some of the more difficult vocabulary. However, the short chapters, large font, and illustrations make Stolen! A Pony Called Pebbles a good choice for reading to your child. Large black-and-white illustrations appear every 2 to 3 pages. The illustrations will help readers visualize the characters as well as understand the plot.

In Stolen! A Pony Called Pebbles, Amy, and her friend are kind and obedient animal-loving characters. When Amy tries to help Pebbles free himself from barbed wire, she is afraid. Despite this, Amy “was still trying to sound calm, but her voice was squeaky and her hands were trembling. . .She was never going to be able to help this horse if she kept crying.” Amy realizes that in order to help Pebbles, the horse will need to trust her. Amy’s actions help save Pebbles and reunite him with his human family. In the end, Amy’s dream comes true in an unexpected way. The sweet conclusion will leave readers with a smile and fill their nighttime dreams with horses.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • Midnight and his companion horse, Pebbles, are horsenapped. “Before the stallion knew what was happening, a rope had been thrown around his neck and looped over his nose into a halter. . . . The horse’s eyes rolled with fear.”

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • One of the thieves calls Midnight a “black devil.”

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

A Magical Friend

Pippa has always wanted a pet pony. Princess Stardust has always wanted a pet girl. So when they meet in a magical place called Chevalia, they decide to become best friends. Chevalia is an island where ponies can talk; an island that only real pony lovers can find. But now, the ponies need Pippa’s help. The eight special horseshoes that give the island its magic have gone missing. Can Princess Stardust and Pippa work together to save Chevalia?

While finding the missing horseshoes is important, Princess Stardust is so excited to have a human pet that the missing horseshoes become unimportant. Instead of trying to solve the mystery, the princess takes Pippa on a tour of Chevalia. The mystery takes a back seat as Pippa learns about the interesting magical world and is introduced to several important characters. In the end, Princess Stardust and Pippa find one of the missing horseshoes. The story ends by setting up the next book in the series, where the search for the horseshoes will continue.

Younger, horse-loving readers will enjoy meeting magical ponies. Cute black-and-white illustrations appear every 3 to 5 pages and will help the reader visualize the story’s characters—seahorses, ponies, and even a winged horse. Princess Stardust is light and fun; a contrast to Pippa, who is focused on finding the horseshoes. The intriguing topic and interesting characters will draw young readers into the story; however, the story lacks a life lesson or a theme that would elevate A Magical Friend to a must-read book.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • “Oh, horseflies,” is used as an exclamation.
  • One of the ponies curses by saying, “Prancing ponies.”

Supernatural

  • Every year, on Midsummer Day, the ponies must perform a ceremony. “It’s the time when our ancient horseshoes must renew their magical energy. If the horseshoes are still missing in eight days, then by nightfall on the eighth day, their magic will fade, and our beautiful island will be no more.”
  • Pippa goes to the sea and discovers sea horses. “Gently, she moved her fingers to get one of the seahorses to swim to her hand. The tiny animal was almost there when, suddenly, with a loud whoosh, the water rose up in the shape of the head and front legs of a galloping horse.” Two giant seahorses appear and take Pippa to the magical island of
  • The giant seahorses tell Pippa, “We’re taking you somewhere very special, where time exists in a bubble. You can stay there as long as you like and you won’t be missed, for time will not pass in your own world.”

Spiritual Content

  • None

Blue Moon

Bobbie Jo didn’t set out to buy a limping blue roan mare—she wanted a colt she could train to barrel race. But the horse is a fighter, just like Bobbie Jo. Now all she has to do is train the sour, old mare whose past is unknown. While she nurses the horse back to health, Bobbie Jo realizes that the horse, now called Blue Moon, may have more history than she first thought. With the help of the enigmatic Cole, she slowly turns the horse into a barrel racer.

From the very first page, Blue Moon sets up the conflict in a fast-paced story. Bobbie Jo clearly loves horses and readers will quickly be pulled into her world. Even though Bobbie Jo isn’t well developed, readers will be interested in her life. When Cole begins working on her family’s ranch, Bobbie Jo doesn’t trust him. When the two are forced to work together, Bobbie Jo realizes that Cole’s bad attitude hides his true nature. Bobbie Jo and Cole’s relationship adds interest to the story and readers will enjoy watching their friendship grow.

Blue Moon is specifically written for teens who want to read short, interesting novels. The book has large font and short chapters which will appeal to reluctant readers. The easy-to-read story revolves around Bobbie Jo’s horse and family which makes the story relatable to many teens.

The story is told from Bobbie Jo’s point of view, which allows the reader to understand her thought process. Her relationships with her family, Cole, and her horse give the story enough depth to keep the reader turning the pages. The ending has a surprise that emphasizes doing what is right. More advanced readers may be disappointed in Blue Moon because of the simple plot and lack of character development. However, both struggling readers and horse-loving readers who want a quick read will enjoy Blue Moon.

Sexual Content

  • Bobbie Jo and Cole are in a truck talking. Bobbie Jo’s sister taps on the window and then says, “you guys steamin’ up the windows in there or what?”

Violence

  • None

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • Bobby Jo and her parents have a conversation about Cole’s father. Afterward, Bobby Jo wonders, “Why didn’t anybody ever see this Mr. McCall around? Maybe he was a hopeless drunk who just sat home drinking up the grocery money. . .”
  • Cole’s family was in a car accident. Cole says, “One night we were comin’ home for the city in a thunderstorm and a drunk driver hit our truck. We all got hurt.”

 

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

 

Fear of Falling

David’s father left town a year ago, abandoning his family. David’s family struggles with the changes that David’s father forced upon them. The bright spot in David’s day is riding horses and volunteering at Dr. Mac’s veterinary clinic.

When David’s father suddenly appears, he promises to teach David how to jump on horseback. David can’t let his father know how frightened he is, because the only thing that scares David more than falling off a horse is disappointing his father. Can he overcome his fear and earn his father’s pride?

Fear of Falling is a fast-paced, interesting story that blends David’s family problems with horse action. David has been working with Trickster, a horse that is afraid of getting into a trailer. As David works with the skittish horse, he must be patient and not force Trickster to work on “people-time.” The key to Trickster’s healing is allowing the horse to work at his own pace. This helps reinforce the idea that horses and people should learn at their own pace and not hurry into things before they are ready.

Many readers will relate to David, who has learned that his father’s promises cannot be trusted. Because the story is told from David’s point of view, readers can understand both David’s hopes and fears. David’s fear of falling off a horse connects back to Trickster’s fear, which adds interest to the story. Through David’s experiences, readers will see the danger of pushing yourself to do something that you are not ready for—including trusting others.

Since the story is only 111 pages, the themes are not well developed. While the story focuses on horses, Fear of Falling lacks facts about horses and instead focuses on David’s struggle with his father. While the conclusion doesn’t resolve David’s conflict with his father, the story ends on a realistic, hopeful note. The short chapters, interesting plot, and relatable characters make Fear of Falling a book that will appeal to readers of different ages. Horse-loving readers who are ready for more advanced books should also read The Rose Legacy by Jessica Day George.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • While riding a horse, David feels like “I’m on a runaway train, heading for disaster—and I don’t know how to stop.” The horse sends David “flying through the air like a catapult. And then I fall, fall, fall . . .” David is taken to the hospital, but he doesn’t have any serious injuries.

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • While David is in the hospital, the doctor tells his parents, “I’ll give him a prescription of painkillers if you want. But I think ibuprofen should take care of it.”
  • A woman brings her sick cat to the veterinarian, who gives the cat “a fast-acting steroid.”

Language

  • David’s brother calls him an idiot and a dork one time.
  • When he finds out his dad has lied to him, David calls his father a coward.
  • Darn is used twice.

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

Keeker and the Springtime Surprise

It’s springtime in Vermont, and Keeker and Plum have discovered all kinds of surprising things on the farm. Keeker finds a baby bird on the lawn. Plum has a new roly-poly family of groundhogs living in her field. But the biggest surprise of all is the discovery that Keeker’s mom’s horse is going to have a baby. With all of the excitement, Keeker and Plum get tired of being ignored. Keeker decides staging a play will be just the thing to win back her parents’ attention, and the play’s ending is even more exciting than Plum or Keeker could have imagined!

Get ready for some springtime silliness as Keeker and Plum help a family of groundhogs. Readers will relate to Keeker, who feels like her parents only care about their horse, who is going to deliver a foul any day. Keeker’s frustration of being ignored is balanced by the comic way Plum tries to hide the groundhogs from “Keeker’s dad [who] didn’t like groundhogs at all; he always yelled and waved his arms at them.”

With cute baby animals, a silly horse, and a determined protagonist, young readers will enjoy Keeker and the Springtime Surprise. The story has a relatable conflict and a healthy family unit. However, one negative aspect of the story is Keeker’s attention-seeking behavior. For example, once when her parents weren’t giving her attention, Keeker “lay down on the ground and worked up a gigantic tantrum. . .she sobbed, flailing her arms around” and later she “stamped her foot a little.”

Keeker and the Springtime Surprise is told in five short chapters and has a simple plot. Large black and white illustrations appear on almost every page. The illustrations will help younger readers visualize the characters and events in the story. Beginning readers will need help with some of the more advanced vocabulary such as absentmindedly, clanky, and eventually.

The Sneaky Pony Series will appeal to young readers who will laugh at Keeker’s wild imitation. The story’s plot jumps around, and young readers will not understand the reference to Don Quixote. However, the conclusion is sweet and happy for everyone, including the hedgehogs. If you’re looking for a book with a more positive protagonist, Maggie and the Flying Horse by E.D. Baker would make a better choice.

Sexual Content

  • When the horse, Pansy, is getting ready to have a baby, Plum “hoped being pregnant wasn’t something you could catch, like a cold.”

Violence

  • None

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • When Keeker gives Plum a hug, the horse says, “Stop strangling me, you crazy girl!”

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

 

Thunder Horse

What if your Aunt Aldora gave you a miniature horse, no bigger than a puppy? And what if the little horse began to grow wings? What would you call him? When he grew large enough, would you ride him? And cherish him?

Thunder Horse is a wonderful story that introduces young readers to Greek mythology and explains how a constellation is formed. The story follows a girl’s journey with her thunder horse named Pegasus. When the girl receives Pegasus as a gift, the horse is tiny, but he soon grows large enough to take the girl for a ride through the sky. Even though the girl knows that Pegasus will eventually leave her, the girl encourages Pegasus to fly. When Pegasus is fully grown, the girl “watched as he rose up, up, till he was only a snow speck in the sky. That’s when I cried.”

The story of the girl and Pegasus is drawn in muted shades that give each illustration a magical feeling. Each picture focuses on the girl and the thunder horse, which allows the reader to feel the girl’s wonder and delight. Readers will be able to put themselves in the pictures and imagine themselves flying above the city. Even though Thunder Horse is a picture book, the story is intended to be read aloud to a child, rather than for the child to read it for the first time independently. Each page has 2 to 12 complex sentences that use difficult vocabulary such as quicksilver, agog, and a-glimmer.

Young readers will be drawn to Thunder Horse because of the beautiful cover illustration of a girl and a Pegasus. While younger readers may not understand the larger themes of love and letting go, they will still enjoy the story and watching Pegasus grow and soar.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • A teacher reads a story about Pegasus, “the winged thunder horse who lived in the palace of the Greek god, Zeus. He became part of a beautiful constellation of stars.”

Spiritual Content

  • None

 

Uni Brings Spring

Uni lives in the forest where she loves to visit her animal friends. Spring has finally arrived, and the animals are enjoying the warm air. But then a winter storm blankets everything in snow. All the forest animals are cold and hungry. How can Uni help her friends?

Readers will fall in love with Uni, a kind-hearted unicorn who wants to help her friends. One of the best attributes of Uni is her caring nature. When her friends are cold, Uni realizes that magic cannot solve the problem. However, Uni finds other ways to help her friends such as helping Robin put more leaves in her nest and helping a baby bear find his mother. The happy conclusion highlights how Uni’s actions helped her friends.

The contrast between the seasons becomes apparent through the full-page illustrations. Each page that illustrates spring has bright, cheerful colors. But when the snowstorm hits, the illustrations are predominantly white and blue-grey. Every page has 1 to 3 short sentences that readers will need to sound out.

Uni Brings Spring is perfect for young readers familiar with sight words. However, parents may need to help their child with unfamiliar words. All animal lovers will enjoy seeing Uni help others. Young readers who love unicorns should also read the Unicorn and Yeti Series by Heather Ayris Burnel.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • Uni finds a magical icicle that caused winter to come back. “Uni’s horn can handle this icicle. One touch of Uni’s horn makes the icicle glow. Now rainbows dance on the cave walls.” Winter leaves.

Spiritual Content

  • None

Keeker and the Sugar Shack

It’s mud season in Vermont and everyone has cabin fever. Keeker is so bored she has started wearing pantyhose on her head. (She loves to pretend she has long braids like Laura Ingalls Wilder.) So when an intriguing new neighbor starts mixing up a concoction in the shack on her farm, Keeker and Plum set out to investigate. When the two detectives befriend their eccentric neighbor, they find that first impressions aren’t always right and even the yucky old mud season can be magical.

Young readers will relate to Keeker, who gets bored being inside and lets her imagination run wild. When Keeker thinks her new neighbor is a witch, she and her sneaky pony, Plum, go on a mission to spy on the old woman. Both Keeker and Plum know that sneaking around is wrong, but Plum wants to check out the new neighbor’s house because “it did sound a bit sneaky. And Plum loved to be sneaky.” The idea that it is okay to sneak around is reinforced several times, including when Keeker went to bed with “her hands still syrup-sticky. (As usual, she had only pretended to wash her hands before dinner.)”

Keeker and the Sugar Shack is told in five short chapters and has a simple plot. Large black and white illustrations appear on almost every page. The illustrations will help younger readers visualize the characters and events in the story. Plus, readers will giggle when Keeker disguises Plum as a tree when she “picked some branches and tucked them into Plum’s bridle.” Beginning readers will need help with some of the more advanced vocabulary such as hunkering, kooky, and cauldron.

While Keeker and the Sugar Shack will appeal to horse-loving readers, parents may not appreciate Keeker and Plum sneaking around. Despite this, Keeker’s story would make a fun read-aloud book because of the dialogue and onomatopoeia words. In the end, Keeker learns she shouldn’t judge a person by their appearances (or by her imagination). The fun plot will keep young readers entertained and readers will be eager to read the next book in the series, Keeker and the Springtime Surprise. Horse-loving readers will also love the Big Apple Barn Series by Kristin Earhart.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • Keeker’s neighbor, Mr. Doolan, “smelled good—like green grass and pipe smoke.” One illustration shows Mr. Doolan with his pipe.

Language

  • Keeker says a bull is dumb.

Supernatural

  • Keeker thinks her new neighbor might be a witch.

Spiritual Content

  • None

Leroy Ninker Saddles Up

Yippie-i-oh! Saddle up for the first in a spin-off series starring favorite characters from Kate DiCamillo’s Mercy Watson Series. Leroy Ninker dreams of being a cowboy. He has a hat, a lasso, and boots. What he doesn’t have is a horse—until he meets Maybelline, that is, and then it’s love at first sight.

Leroy has big dreams, but he’s not sure how to make them come true. His coworker tells him, “What you have to do here is take fate in your hands and wrestle it to the ground.” This advice motivates Leroy to find a horse. Even though the horse, Maybelline, isn’t a perfect horse, Leroy loves her. Maybelline’s owner tells him that he needs to remember three things. One: Maybelline likes compliments. Two: She eats a lot of grub. Three: “Don’t leave Maybelline alone for long, or you will live to rue and regret the day.”

Leroy leaves Maybelline alone for just a minute, but that was enough time for the horse to get scared and wander off. Maybelline runs and runs. Leroy goes to search for his horse, but he can’t find her. Will Leroy be able to find his horse?

Leroy’s adventure has plenty of humor that will leave readers with a smile. Leroy gives the horse a lot of compliments such as, “You are the brightest star in the velvety nighttime sky!” Readers will laugh when Leroy uses pretty words, and when Leroy unsuccessfully tries to push Maybelline through the apartment’s door. Leroy’s dream comes true in a unique way, and the love between him and his horse is endearing.

Large black and white illustrations appear every 1 to 3 pages and will help readers understand the story’s plot. The illustrations highlight the difference between Leroy’s dreams and reality. Leroy’s dreams appear in bubbles and show a beautiful, perfect horse. However, Maybelline is an imperfect horse, but Leroy loves her. Many of the illustrations are full-page and have humorous elements to them. Even though Leroy Ninker Saddles Up is intended for younger readers, they may need help with difficult vocabulary such as cogitate, informational, emboldened, and savoring.

The sweet conclusion gives the sense of community as Leroy, Maybelline, and several others are invited in to share breakfast with Mercy Watson. Readers familiar with the Mercy Watson Series will enjoy the two books’ similarities. However, readers do not need to read the Mercy Watson Series to understand the events in Leroy Ninker Saddles Up. Both the text and the illustrations in Leroy Ninker Saddles Up use humor that will inspire readers to dream big.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • When someone throws a can at Leroy, he says, “Dang nib it.”
  • Occasionally, Leroy exclaims phrases such as, “Gol’ dang it, dag blibber it” and “flibber gibber it.”
  • Heck is used once.

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

The Girl with the Broken Heart

For the past few months, family has meant nothing but heartache for Kenzie Caine. When her second year at college comes to a close, the last thing she wants to do is return home. Luckily, she’s just landed her dream summer job working at the well-known Bellmeade horse farm in the nearby town of Windemere. Rehabilitating abused horses is hard work, but it’s the perfect distraction from her mother’s deep depression and her turbulent relationship with her father. With the beautiful horses, Kenzie is in her element.

Still, she has her own health limitations—a weakened heart. Her employers, the affable Jon and Ciana Mercer, are well aware of her condition and have tasked the charming stable hand, Austin Boyd, with helping Kenzie with some of the heavy lifting. But Austin has his own secrets. As Kenzie and Austin become closer, those secrets lead to shocking revelations that test the walls Kenzie has built around her heart.

The Girl with the Broken Heart follows a familiar romance format and holds few surprises. Kenzie is an admirable character who doesn’t allow her heart condition to get in the way of her dreams. However, the complicated backstory, which lacks development, makes it difficult to connect with Kenzie. Much of her conflict is internal and revolves around her family life, but the reason for her conflict lacks detail, which causes confusion.

Even though The Girl with the Broken Heart is a clean romance appropriate for younger readers, the age of the character may make it difficult for readers to connect with her. Kenzie is in college, but her love interest’s age is unclear, though he has been working as a police officer for many years. The story hits on the topic of sexting, internet bullying, and suicide. However, these topics are also underdeveloped and unfortunately don’t evoke an emotional reaction.

Kenzie’s summer job is rehabilitating abused horses and the story explains the dangers of the painful method of soring Tennessee Walking Horses. While the abuse may resonate with those familiar with horse competitions, others may be confused because soring isn’t described until later in the book. In addition, the story focuses more on Kenzie’s relationship with Austin instead of her interaction with the horses.

The Girl with the Broken Heart is a sweet romance, but the older characters and lack of plot development make the book more appropriate for older readers. While Kenzie’s heart condition adds interest to the story, in the end, her character will quickly be forgotten. Teens looking for romance with a unique plot should try I Believe in A Thing Called Love by Maurene Goo.

Sexual Content

  • Dawson and his fiancée kiss several times. For example, “Dawson bent down and kissed Lani on the mouth.”
  • After Kenzie acts frosty towards Austin, he says, “Why, I could have sworn yesterday when we held hands that you liked having me close to you. So much so that if I’d walked you to your door last night like I wanted, I might have gotten a kiss.” Kenzie denies her attraction towards Austin.
  • Austin tells Kenzie about his first kiss. “We kissed once just to try it out and broke out laughing. No chemistry. No magic.”
  • Kenzie doesn’t know how to feel about Austin. “When he’d leaned over her, listening to her every word and looking into her eyes, she’d felt a fluttering sensation in her heart. . . desire.” She thinks Austin is going to kiss her and is disappointed when he doesn’t.
  • Austin doesn’t like it when a coworker “let his gaze roam over Kenzie’s body.”
  • Kenzie falls asleep while caring for a sick horse. When Austin sees her, he “wanted to touch her, smooth her hair . . . He wanted to bend down and kiss her awake.”
  • Kenzie recalls when she was thirteen and one of the ranch hands cornered her in the stable. The man “came up behind me, started rubbing my shoulders, telling me he thought I was pretty. I froze. He said other stuff, too, sexy things I didn’t understand at the time. . . Then he turned me around and planted a big wet sloppy kiss on my mouth.”
  • After walking Kenzie home, Austin “longed to take her in his arms, hungered for the feel of her warm mouth on his.” He forces himself to leave.
  • After an outing with Austin, Kenzie “placed both hands against his chest, rose up on her toes, and brushed her lips over his. Pulling away with a saucy smile, she whispered ‘Tag, you’re it,’ and ran back to the house.”

Violence

  • An upperclassman convinced Kenzie’s sister to “send pictures of her naked body to him, she did . . . because he said he loved her.” The boy then sent the pictures to others, who “shamed her! Made f-fun of her.” Afterward, Kenzie’s sister hangs herself on Valentine’s Day.
  • Someone vandalizes Kenzie’s car. “Both seats had been slashed with long vicious wounds that left the innards oozing out of the pale creamy leather like pieces of roadkill.”
  • When Austin is in the barn alone, a masked man stabs him with a knife. “Austin, gagged, heard a whoosh—his lung blown, deflating. He staggered, twisted away from the stall, fell backwards, his head slamming against the hard floor. . . searing, burning pain.” The farm dog attacks the man. “The assailant was hurled to one side, then hauled backwards amid growls and snarls. The man screamed. Human bone crunched.” Both men end up in the hospital.

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • Kenzie goes to a party where people “gathered around patio tables, drinking sodas and beer.”
  • Kenzie’s mom takes pills for depression.
  • While at a Fourth of July party Austin is “nursing a beer.”
  • While in the hospital Austin is given a “morphine infusion pump.”
  • Austin tells Kenzie about a case he was working on. “Kids were dying. Opioids. Five area high schools had lost seven teens in four months.”
  • After taking drugs, a teen tells Austin, “The first time I used, I felt like I’d been kissed by an angel. Every time after, I was chasing that feeling. Never got it again.”

Language

  • Kenzie calls Austin a conceited jerk. Later, Austin tells Kenzie that someone is “pretty much a jerk.”
  • Crappy is used twice. Once Kenzie says, “Having a crappy heart condition wasn’t going to slow me down. So far, it hasn’t.”
  • At a horse competition, a man sees Kenzie looking at a horse. The man says, “If it isn’t the bitch who helped destroy my grandfather.” After the altercation, Austin asked, “And what should I have done? Beat the crap out of him?”
  • Damn is used once. Hell is used twice.

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

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