________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 15 . . . . March 20, 2009

cover Totally Horse Mad. (Horse Mad; 1).

Kathy Helidoniotos.
North Vancouver, BC: Walrus Books/Whitecap Books, 2008.
229 pp., pbk., $8.95.
ISBN 978-1-978-1-55285-952-0.

Subject Heading:
Horses-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 4-7 / Ages 9-12.

Review by Tanya Boudreau.

*** /4


"Today is a big day for South Beach Stables. We've got riders competing in most events. We came second overall last year, thanks to the superhuman effort put in by our very own Ashleigh Miller."

"Fluke," Nicki muttered, glaring at me. "Total fluke."

"Winning is great. But remember, the most important thing is to do your best and have a good time. Ribbons are an added bonus."

"Going soft in your old age are you, Holly?" Ben laughed. "Last year you said ‘Win or else.'"

"Must be." Holly smiled and ducked under the white fence. "Good luck!"

The under 12s took up their positions at the starting line.

Ben twisted around in his saddle. "Just keep your cool, guys, and we'll smash the other teams."

"So," said Nicki loudly, "are your parents going to make it this time, Ashleigh?"

To Ashleigh, it's junk. It's junk that belongs to her parents and it sits in the garage. They surely won't miss their Mick Jagger autographed photograph and Beatles records. Actually, she's probably doing them a favour by selling this junk in her impromptu garage sale. After all, more sales equals more money for her Horse Cents fund. Ashleigh wants to buy a horse all on her own, and she needs all the money she can get if she wants to buy Princess. Any money she makes cleaning the boards at her school or tidying up in McWilliam's Saddlery will go directly into her Horse Cents fund which, after three weeks, is sitting at $53.80. This is nowhere near the $1,800.00 she needs! An older horse, with a quiet temperament, Princess has helped Ashleigh win ribbons at the annual Gymkhana event and kept her spirits up whenever Nicki acted like her incredibly spoiled self. Could she rub it in just one more time that her parents are buying her an expensive thoroughbred gelding?!

     If Ashleigh could, she'd ride forever. But right now, she can only be with Princess once a week during her riding lessons at South Beach Stables. This might all change though when Ashleigh learns her family is moving to Shady Creek. Her new house will be on the same street as a horse riding club; the new house comes with a barn and corral, and she's been promised a horse. It sounds perfect and very exciting, but it's not going to be that easy. While in Shady Creek, Ashleigh's parents run into financial trouble. A horse isn't so easy to come by anymore when money is tight, and so 11-year-old Ashleigh finds herself having to work extra hard to get a horse and continue with building her Horse Cents fund. In the process of obtaining a horse, Ashleigh will face disappointment and increased responsibilities. Difficult as all this may seem, it gets worse when jealous "teammates" decide to destroy Ashleigh's chance of winning at the upcoming Gymnaska.

     When Ashleigh is not with her best friend, riding is her favourite thing to do. But at each riding stable she trains, Ashleigh has to deal with jealous riding students and mean opponents. At South Beach Stables, there's Nicki, a spoiled brat who enjoys bragging and putting people down. And in Shady Creek, there are the Creepketeers, three jealous teammates who will do anything to see Ashleigh fail.

     The plot in Totally Horse Mad builds as Ashleigh moves to a new town and encounters grievances and unfairness. A broken promise, an ailing horse, the realities of bills and money, and a handful of cruel kids her own age cause Ashleigh to experience a range of emotions, some of which she acts on and regrets, and some of which result in positive outcomes- the best being a mended friendship.

     Readers who can imagine themselves saving a horse or competing in a horse race would enjoy immersing their minds in this first book in the "Horse Mad" series. Set in Australia, the book ends with a 20 word glossary of Australian words and phrases, such as bikkies, mozzies, and wriggle on. In addition, there is also a one page sneak peek into the second book in the series. It looks like it may be the best summer ever for Ashleigh. Not only will she have her own horse to ride, but there will be a reunion of best friends!

     Author Kathy Helidoniotis grew up in Australia where she became a little horse mad too! She is also mad about books and reading. Today, she is the author of eight children's books, including Lucas Lizard and Have You Seen My Mother? and is mom to three children. In writing the "Horse Mad" books, Kathy brings her love of horses (and a certain headless horse clock) into her books via Ashleigh. She has plans to write six books for the "Horse Mad" series.


Tanya Boudreau is a librarian at the Cold Lake Public Library in Cold Lake, AB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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