________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 16 . . . . April 3, 2009

cover Horse Mad Heroes (Horse Mad; 4).

Kathy Helidoniotis.
North Vancouver, BC: Walrus Books/Whitecap Books, 2009.
264 pp., pbk., $8.95.
ISBN 978-1-55285-960-5.

Subject Heading:
Horses-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 4-7 / Ages 9-12.

Review by Tanya Boudreau.

*** /4


I followed Mrs McMurray to a road-width gap in the horseshoe building. It was a tunnel leading through to the holding yard. The walls were glass. I could see straight into the café on one side and the party room on the other. It was perfect for horse mad kids. I could have cried. Why wasn’t there anything like this for me when I was a kid? I mean, I was going to be twelve in a few months. What if I was too old for this stuff now? Hang on a minute, I thought. I was determined –– I would NEVER be too old for horses. Horses are my life –– always have been, always will be. I paused for a moment, gazing through the glass walls into the party room. I could see it now –– my party, my birthday, with all my very best friends and most of all, with my Honey horse.

It was all amazing. There were tables in the shape of horseshoes, yes, horseshoes! The walls were painted with huge bright murals, all with horses –– brumbies galloping through glittering snow; delicate Arabs dressed in traditional attire; horses of fantasy, myth and legend. Silver unicorns hung from the ceiling. Horse party hats were set up on the tables. There was a throne for the birthday girl or boy, the back of which was in the shape of Pegasus with wings outstretched, ready to fly.

“Wow,” I said. It was all I could say.

In the fourth book of the “Horse Mad” series, 11-year-old Ashleigh Miller has to choose between her best friend and her dream job at Shady Trails Riding Ranch. Becky thinks anyone who spends any amount of time at the new ranch is a traitor. Becky is angry the Shady Trails Riding Ranch is luring students away from her dad’s riding school which both Becky and Ashleigh attend. Ashleigh doesn’t want to hurt Becky’s feelings by working there, but she needs money if she wants to continue to pay for her horse’s food and medical bills. The money will also come in handy now that her mom is expecting a baby and her dad is working fewer shifts. Lies are told and feelings are held in until an ultimatum spoken by Becky brings their friendship to an end. Neither side is apologizing to the other, but when a horse is stolen, Ashleigh and Becky work together to bring the horse home. “Operation Cassata” takes the girls to horse auctions where a pony is saved. It involves following leads that turn into dead ends and talking to people who are unpleasant and unhelpful! Ashleigh makes a promise to find Cassata though, and, with just a business card to use as a clue, she does all she can to bring Cassata home. It’s more than a one person operation though. With the help of her new friend Pree, her new boss Mrs McMurray, and her new pony named Toffee, Ashleigh manages to keep her promise and make one family very happy.

    In Horse Mad Heroes, Ashleigh is also busy preparing for the upcoming Gymkhana. Ashleigh and her team will be competing in events such as the egg and spoon race and the bottle race. But this time, instead of having the creepy Creepketeers on her team, she gets to compete against them. Unfortunately, feelings of guilt and anger overwhelm her during training, and she decides to quit the riding school! With Ashleigh gone from the school, the author introduces Pinebark Ridge Riding School into the story and a new friend for Ashleigh.

     She may have lost her best friend and her old riding school, but Ashleigh is introduced to work any horse mad girl would love while at Shady Trails Riding Ranch. Her boss, Mrs McMurray, knows it too! She sees a future for Ashleigh and encourages her to go after it. If Ashleigh gets accepted into Linley Heights High School and graduates, she may have a good chance to ride for Australia!

     Living in Sydney, Australia, author Kathy Helidoniotis incorporates Australian slang into her “Horse Mad” books with the terms being defined in the glossary found at the end of each book. Readers will learn a lot about horses from these books- from training procedures to animal care. Information about different breeds and competitions is also integrated into every book. Each story ends with a surprise announcement too. Book four differs a little from the other books as there are two surprise announcements at the end of the book; one from Ashleigh and one from her parents.

     Kathy Helidoniotis knows about horses. She had two horses of her own, Clarrie and Georgia. Through her main characters, Kathy brings her love of horses into her books, and through her stories, she is inspiring many horse mad girls like herself! A teacher and avid reader, Kathy has written eight other books for children.


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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