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

cover Horse Mad Summer. (Horse Mad; 2).

Kathy Helidoniotis.
North Vancouver, BC: Walrus Books/Whitecap Books, 2008.
209 pp., pbk., $8.95.
ISBN 978-1-55285-953-7.

Subject Heading:
Horses-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 4-7 / Ages 9-12.

Review by Tanya Boudreau.

*** /4


I had never felt so sick in my life. The try-outs were starting in ten minutes. Although it was early it was hot. My blue club shirt was already damp and stuck to my back. Becky and I were too nervous to speak. My tongue felt like a wad of cotton wool and my mouth was so dry and stiff I couldn’t have managed a sentence if my very life depended on it. All we could do was nod at each other every now and then and check and re-check our tack.

I’d been over the course as many times as I could, but that didn’t stop me from worrying. What if I made a mistake? What if I fell? What if we did a terrible time? And then there were the Creepketeers. I had this feeling that they were after me again. And I knew them well enough to know they were capable of just about anything.

Ashleigh has two best friends. Jenna is from her old hometown, and Becky is from her new hometown. This summer, they are going to meet for the first time. Ashleigh anticipates a fun summer of horseback riding, sleepovers, Chinese food, and fundraising. The money being raised will help the Shady Creek Riding Club sponsor two chosen riders for the Waratah Grove Junior Cross-Country Riding Championship, and Ashleigh and Becky are hoping they are the ones going! But Jenna isn’t very interested in horses; she loves computers. However, this summer, Jenna has something else on her mind, something so big, she makes Ashleigh promise not to tell anyone...not even Becky. Ashleigh wants to do the right thing and keep Becky’s secret, but she is worried. One best friend wants her to keep a secret while the other best friend wants there to be no secrets between them! Ashleigh’s summer plans suddenly turn from fun to frustration. Splitting her time between two friends while training for the cross-country championship is overwhelming at times, but in the end, Ashleigh proves she can do almost anything she sets her mind to.

    Horse Mad Summer is the second book in the “Horse Mad” series. This second book continues on from the point where Totally Horse Mad ended. The gymkhana is over, and Ashleigh is making plans for the summer that involve spending time with her new horse, Honey, and her best friend, Jenna. A daydreamer by nature, Ashleigh attends the Shady Creek Riding Club where her enemies call her “The Spiller.” In book two, these enemies, referred to as the Creepketeers, are even more conniving and cruel, especially when they realize Ashleigh will be replacing an injured rider in the Waratah Grove Cross-Country Riding Championship.

     Readers will continue to see Ashleigh as a hero in this second book. In the first book, she saves a dying horse from starvation and dehydration, and in this, the second book, she saves her best friends and their horses from a burning bushfire. Fundraising is a constant in this book as well. In the first book, the money Ashleigh earned for her Horse Cents fund was to go towards the purchase of a new horse and, later, unexpected veterinarian bills. In the second book, the main focus for her fundraising is to sponsor riders for the Cross- Country Riding Championship. Jenna’s fundraising idea of a dance party proves to be the most successful, but one of her greatest contributions that summer might be her ability to stand-up to the Creepketeers when they are teasing Ashleigh and Becky.

     Set in Australia, Mad Horse Summer ends with a 15 word glossary of Australian terms, including goss, joddie, and textas. In addition, previews for books one, three and four are available on the last three pages.

     Readers particularly interested in horse stories will enjoy Horse Mad Summer. And because it has an Australian setting and a plot that involves “mortal enemies” versus best friends, readers might find the vocabulary refreshing and the rocky relationships gripping. The stories do involve breathtaking horse races, but they also incorporate themes of growing friendship and dedicated teamwork into the plot.

     Author Kathy Helidoniotis grew up in Australia. A horse lover by age six, Kathy has written eight children's book, two of which are entitled Animal Opposites and Farmyard Babies.


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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