Posts Tagged ‘horses’

The Island of Lost Horses by Stacey Gregg.

November 12, 2014 Comments off

island lost horsesThe Island of Lost Horses by Stacey Gregg. Pub. HarperCollins, 2014.

Not many people will have heard of the Abaco Barb horse, the rarest breed in the World. Stacey Gregg has and she has written another of her impressive horse stories with an historical context. This time it is about Christopher Columbus on his quest to the New World at a time when Spain was living in fear of the Spanish Inquisition and Jews were being persecuted not for the first or last time.

Stacey Gregg links 12 year old Beatriz a present day girl who is sailing with her marine biologist mother studying jellyfish in the warm seas around the Bahamas. Lucky girl. With a story of a girl Felipa from the year 1492. A girl who keeps a diary of her life.

While anchored near an island Beatriz sees a horse with top hat markings and is drawn to the horse. While chasing  the horse she both are caught in a life and death struggle in mudflats and are rescued by and old woman named Annie.

It becomes clear that Beatriz and the horse are fated to be together and this attraction has roots in the history of Christopher Columbus. Felipa’s  diary  tells a story of persecution and flight to the New World with a top hat marked horse on one of Columbus’s ships. Is there a link between the two girls?

I really like Stacey Gregg’s novels. They have good values, strong girl characters and great adventure and of course horses. Can the rare Abaco barb horse species be saved and of course there is a hurricane.  Wonderful ending.

Reluctant girls of primary and intermediate school age love them. This year another of Gregg’s novels The Princess and the Foal won children’s choice at the NZ Post Book Awards. This novel is just as good.

Kiwis at War: 1914 Riding into War by Susan Brocker.

June 18, 2014 Comments off

riding into warKiwis at War: 1914 Riding into War by Susan Brocker. Pub. Scholastic, 2014.

The first of a new series from Scholastic that has quality NZ writers telling about New Zealanders  in  World War 1, featuring each year of the Great War, the war to end all wars. If only that were true.

This novel is accessible to a wide range of readers from middle school through to secondary students and I expect the others will be the same.

Billy Bowman is 17 when he, his best mate Jack and work colleague, Chopper, ride off the farm to sign up for the big adventure. What they and their horses got fell well short of that description. At Awapuni Racecourse they were assigned to the 6th Manawatu Squadron of the Wellington Mounted Rifles Regiment.

They expected to ride gloriously into battle on their chargers but instead got Gallipoli and the battle of Chunuk Bair. At home New Zealander’s were greeted with the headline” How the ANZACS gained a foothold at the Dardanelles, No finer Feat in the War”. At the front it was a different story.

Before the action the men and horses were shipped to Egypt and experienced the heat and culture shock while champing at the bit to go into action. Leaving their horses behind was a telling blow.

Susan Brocker tells it well through the character Billy and through letters from home. She knows the story of the horses having written the story of Brave Bess one of only 4 horses that returned. A review appears earlier on this blog.

Much has been written about the Gallipoli Campaign but this account adds the dimension of the horses and will still bring a tear to your eyes as Billy learns two new words – amputee and prosthetics. Lest we forget.


The Girl from Snowy River by Jackie French

January 26, 2013 Comments off

girl snowy riverThe Girl From Snowy River by Jackie French. Pub. Angus&Robertson, 2012.

When men left the Snowy River Valley to go to war in 1914 it starved the land. The death toll carved large chunks out of many families especially the family of 17 year old Flinty, the girl from Snowy River. How did she earn that name?

Sandy Mack kissed Flinty on the cheek when he left for war and told her to write to him. She took it as an intention to marry. Like all the men Sandy returned a different person and like all the men he never talked about the war. The women just didn’t understand but they were changing too. The most telling sentence of the novel comes from a nurse in the war  ” when I see a man’s body now all I think of is pain and death”

Flinty has a horse called Empress and on a hunt for a runaway stallion worth a 1000 pounds, Flinty has the sort of ride that is told in the legendary Banjo Patterson poem The man from Snowy River.  This poem and other poems like Clancy of the Overflow and other poems greatly influence this novel.

Flinty has a timeslip encounter with a crippled soldier from the Vietnam War, called Nicholas,  near a misty rock outcrop above her farm. He knows her as the girl from Snowy River and she wants to know why. He tells her something very bad and something very good will happen to her. She wants to know more but he refuses to tell.

Flinty’s story is brilliantly told by Jackie French who in my opinion is one of Australia’s great writers.

Will appeal to secondary school students and for girls who ar 11 going on 16.

Brave Bess and the ANZAC Horses by Susan Brocker

October 31, 2012 Comments off

Brave Bess and the ANZAC Horses by Susan Brocker. Pub. HarperCollins, 2010.

A well written, well researched novel about a little known battle field of World War One in which NZ soldiers and their horses took a vital part.

It is of course Palestine against the Turks a war in which Lawrence of Arabia made his name. TheNZ Mounted Rifles and the Australian Light Horse Brigade fought alongside each other with a variety of animals to assist them because of the desert conditions of the region. Horses, camels, bullocks, pigeons and dogs played their part and without them the war could not have been won.

This story is personified in the character of Bess the only horse to go away from NZ and return. Over 10,000 horses left NZ and overall over 8 million were killed on both sides. Staggering.

Bess is a brave horse who trusts her human rider, especially in battle when the bullets are flying and the noise of death is all around. bessbecomes a hero in the battles to drive the Turks away from the Suez canal and the Holy lands.

Great story that Michael Morpurgo would have struggled to write better. A beautiful scene is when the camels reach the coast and bathe in the sea up to their humps….like a herd of Loch Ness monsters. Wonderful.

Primary Intermediate and Secondary school pupils will like this book. I did it was great and only took me 2 hours.

The photographs of the horse and soldiers enhance the plot and give the book realness.

I have just been reliably informed by Fred MacDonald President of the Friends of Bess that 4 horses returned to NZ. This pleases me immensely but the error does not detract from Bess’s story or those of the brave men and horses who fought in Palestine in the Great War. The other horse were:-

Major General Sir Andrew(Guy) Russell – “Dolly”,Buried At Tuanui;Hastings
Colonel Charles Guy Powles-“Bess”,Buried At Forest Road Bulls Died 29-10-1934
Late Captain Richard Wardell Riddiford-“Beauty”,Buried At “Westella”,Fielding;Died 1924,
Late Lt. Colonel Goeorge Augustus King-“Nigger”,Buried At Tuanui,Hastings;Died 1924.
The Horses Arrived On Board S.S. Westmeath Ex Liverpool Via The Panama Canal, At Kings Wharf;Wellington On Saturday 20 Th July 1920.

Pony Club Secrets bk 12 Nightstorm and the Grand Slam by Stacy Gregg

Nightstorm and the Grand Slam by Stacy Gregg. Pub. HarperCollins, 2011.

Seventeen year old Isadora Brown, known as Issie, wins the Kentucky four Star 3 day event on a wild horse called Nightstorm or Storm, from nowhere. Who is this girl? and where did she get that horse?

Two weeks later after Storm has given her a great start in the dressage at the Badminton Horse Trials, the great horse comes down with colic. Issie has entered two horses and competes on an Australian horse called Victory and wins. The glamorous, competitive and bitchy world of Eventing is disturbed.

When Victory is sold to a bankrupt rotter from New Zealand and given to his bitchy daughter Natasha who has the attitude of a viper and a Premier League football player as a boyfriend. The gloves are off and the handbags out.

All eyes are on the final Grand Slam Event, The Burghley Horse trials. Thrilling stuff.

All the horse talk, all the information on these great equestrian events and all the personnal drama.

I read this as many girls love horse stories. I had never read one from this series so I entertained myself. Are they any good? They will not win any literary prizes but they are well written are informative, formulaic certainly but good stuff. I would have them in my library.

Go get this one girls. Suitable intermediate junior high school level.