Nell is not happy about spending her school vacation with relatives she doesn’t know. Expecting nothing more than silly little cousins and boring farm life, she sneaks along a special suitcase that once belonged to her father. In it, she knows, are the parts of a music box and sixteen miniature painted horses. She thinks maybe she can fit them all back together.
But the countryside has unexpected surprises. When a half-wild and mysterious girl named Angel steals Nell’s suitcase, the two girls are united in an adventure of Angel’s devising. Nighttime meetings and a horse that just might be magical, pique Nell’s curiosity. Soon, she might find a way to put together the mystery of who Angel truly is and understand the legend about the herd of a hundred horses. She may also discover something special about herself.
A Hundred Horses revolves around a fairytale about the one-hundredth horse. Some people believe that when the one-hundredth horse arrives, it will corrupt all the other horses. However, Nell’s friend Angel has learned the fairytale with a different conclusion. Angel’s story views the one-hundredth horse’s arrival as positive because the horse has magic. In the end, the one-hundredth horse’s arrival is tied into Angel’s personal story. However, many young children will not understand the significance of the fairytale and how it relates to Angel.
Nell narrates the story, which allows the reader to understand her complex thoughts. Despite this, some readers will have a difficult time connecting to Nell. The story grows at a slow pace because most of the suspense revolves around the mystery of Angel, who doesn’t want anyone to know she is back in town. Nell’s interactions with Angel allow Nell to look beyond Angel’s appearance. Because of her relationship with Angel, Nell realizes, “I knew what it meant when you don’t let people stick around. You’re scared that they don’t really want to know you, that when they do, they’ll leave you anyway. So you make yourself not care about them first.”
The book slowly weaves a story about friendship, family, and self-acceptance. While a horse and a foal make several appearances, they are not a focal point. Instead, the girls’ feelings of abandonment and their budding friendship take center stage in this heartwarming story. Readers who enjoyed Louisiana’s Way Home by Kate DiCamillo will like this book. However, many readers will have a difficult time reading to the end of the story. If you’re looking for an engaging book that explores the loss of a parent, you should read My Father’s Words by Patricia MacLachlan.
- Nell’s father “ran away to a place called Las Vegas with someone—called Susie or something. . .”
Drugs and Alcohol
- Because of the legend of the hundred horses, Nell wonders if Angel is a real angel. Nell ponders, “Isn’t that what real angels did? Watched over and protected us just at the time between life and death.”
- Angel thought Nell was an angel. Angel says, “I know I kept telling you to go away, but you didn’t I thought that meant you must be an angel. Only you’d lost your wings, so you’d forgotten you could fly.”