CM . . . . Volume XV Number 17. . . .April 17, 2009.
The Mystery Stallion. (Wild Horse Creek).
North Vancouver, BC: Walrus Books/Whitecap Books, 2008.
121 pp., pbk., $8.95.
Grades 5-9 / Ages 10-14.
Review by Aileen Wortley.
Coyote Canyon. (Wild Horse Creek).
North Vancouver, BC: Walrus Books/Whitecap Books, 2009.
123 pp., pbk., $8.95.
Grades 5-9 / Ages 10-14.
Review by Aileen Wortley.
Sophie turned her back on the empty desert and sank down on a rock. I’m lost, she thought. I’m going to die of thirst and turn into bleached, white bones like those cattle skulls on the veranda. Swallowing was agony. Why hadn’t she gone back for water?
All at once she was aware of something else beside her over-powering thirst - a horrible smell that was getting stronger by the second. She heard a strange clacking noise and opened her eyes. A collection of weird animals trotted toward her. They were the size of large dogs, but with skinny legs and hooves. Their heads were enormous, their eyes were small and their bottom teeth stuck out like tusks. They looked like hairy pigs with white collars and the clacking noise seemed to be coming from their jaws.
And the smell!
Sophie clapped her hand to her nose and stood up.
The animals stopped. The clacking grew louder. The lead animal spread its jaw wide, and Sophie could see that its two bottom teeth curved to sharp-looking points.
“Go away!” she shouted lunging at them. (From Mystery Stallion).
Before she could stop herself she was falling, slipping through the darkness, the sound of her own scream echoing in her ears. Seconds later, the crevice walls closed around her, slowing her free fall. Her right foot found a firm place to stand. But her flashlight was gone. Heart pounding, her breath ragged, Dayna scrabbled for a foothold with her left foot. There! She was standing with one foot either side of a steep, dark fissure. She felt around the space with her hands. It was as narrow and smooth as the inside of a chimney. Nothing to hold or grip. “HELP!” Dayna screamed. “Somebody help me!” It was as though she was at the bottom of a well. The darkness was total. Her footholds were all that kept her from falling deeper into the deep crack where she’d be wedged between the rocks-unable to breathe or move in any direction. She could hear bat wings flapping at the top of the crevice. Waves of panic engulfed her. (From Coyote Canyon.)
These two titles are the first volumes in the “Wild Horse Creek” series. Avid fans of Siamon’s previous “Mustang Mountain” and “Saddle River” books have made their enthusiasm known about her writing. As one young reader says, “As soon as I pick up one of your books I can’t put it down.” And I, though somewhat older than the average reader of these books, felt the same about this new series!
In Mystery Stallion, 13-year-old twins Sophie and Liv leave their home in Vancouver to spend the spring break on their grandparents’ ranch in Arizona. The story focuses on the ranch stallion, Diego, found badly injured by the mystery horse of the title and the disappearance of the remainder of the herd. In trying to find the latter, Sophie and Liv, under the guidance of a young cowhand, Shane, encounter a variety of dangerous but credible experiences. Subplots involve the illness of their grandmother and the enmity between a rival rancher and the twins’ grandparents while just touching on the girls’ credible adulation of two handsome young cowhands they meet.
In Coyote Canyon, the twins and their mother stay on to take care of the ranch during their grandparents’ absence for several more months, thus providing the twins with an opportunity for further adventure. This time, the desperate search for the beautiful and precious foal Bandera, son of the stallion Diego and mare Carmelita, provides the focal adventure. The colt has fled, after witnessing the cruel death of his mother, and, in tracking him, the twins and their friends experience tension and danger once again. In this book, characters, Dayna and Cheyenne, who were peripheral in the earlier title, play a larger role. These girls are older, worldly and not particularly likeable although by the end of the book one realizes that Dayna has redeeming features. Because of the girls’ nature, different interests and more superficial outlook, there are overtones to this book that detract from the freshness and naivety of Mystery Stallion.
However, without doubt, both books are page-turners. The characters of the twins are well drawn, and much of the tension revolves around their love for each other while recognizing their differences. Sophie is timid and anxious about the adventures they embark on while Liv enters into any situation with enthusiasm and excitement. In both titles, the description of the scenery is well drawn, even breathtaking occasionally, detailing its harshness and dangers as well as its beauty. I looked at the map in the book only after I had read the story and surprisingly found everything located as I had imagined it, based on the author’s descriptions. As an added bonus, there is a huge wealth of fascinating information about horses and desert life which will be absorbed unwittingly.
Readers aged 10-14 will find both titles suspenseful, well-written reads with nicely developed main characters and credible plots.
Aileen Wortley, a retired librarian, lives in Toronto, ON.
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