________________ CM . . . . Volume XI Number 8 . . . . December 10, 2004


Brave Horse. (Mustang Mountain, #6).

Sharon Siamon.
North Vancouver, BC: Whitecap Books, 2004.
185 pp., pbk., $8.95.
ISBN 1-55285-528-7.

Subject Headings:
Rocky Mountains-Juvenile fiction.
Horses-Juvenile fiction.
Jealousy-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 6-9 / Ages 11-14.

Review by Deborah Mervold.

**** /4


Alison and Rob heard Chuck's cries above the roar of the river.

"He jumped in without looking for a safe place to cross!" Rob's face was pale."What's the matter with him?"

"I know what's the matter with him!" Terror clogged Alison's throat. "He's chasing that blasted horse."

The two of them made a final dash through the thick jack pines to the river's edge. Far downstream they could see something clinging to a fallen tree.

"I think it's Chuck!" Alison pointed. "He's down there. Come on!"

The trees grew in a dense mat along the riverbank. They could go faster if they ran on foot.

Alison jumped off Rascal's back and tied her lead rope around a tree trunk. Rob was already reaching for the coil of rope on his saddle.

"Hurry!" Alison cried over her shoulder.

"I'm gonna need this." Rob freed the rope and ran after her.

They thrashed through the pine and poplar trees. Alison felt as though she were in a dream where her legs refused to move fast enough. They could no longer hear Chuck shouting.

Brave Horse is the sixth book in the "Mustang Mountain" series. The characters, Becky, Meg and Allison continue their adventures in the summer on an isolated mountain ranch belonging to Becky's parents. Becky's mom, Laurie, trains horses for endurance races at the Mustang Mountain Ranch.

     Becky is a 15-year-old who likes Rob, a boy who is helping at the ranch. She has spent the last year in the east with her cousin Allison's family. Allison is a rich, spoiled brat who learns her true value throughout the book. Meg is the rational, cautious friend, who was at school with both of the girls. She sees that, even though the cousins dislike one another, they are really quite a bit alike. The previous summer at the Calgary Stampede in Alberta, Meg had met a young aboriginal boy, Thomas, who had promised to come to the ranch. Thomas's friend, Chuck, (Charles) also planned to come to the ranch.

     Becky is a stickler for rules and helps her mom train the horses. She loves Allison's horse, Shadow. Allison had previously saved Shadow's life and now wants to train the horse for barrel racing. Becky believes that the horse is too young and isn't suited for that sport. Becky was happy when Allison had planned to go to Paris with her father but when Becky's parents decide to reconcile Becky''s plans change and she joins the adventure at the ranch.

     When the girls are out riding one day, Allison goes off at a faster pace on her own and meets Thomas. Because Allison is jealous of the blossoming romance between Meg and Thomas, she tells Thomas about the mysterious black stallion which the ranch hand has told her about. The horse, Diablo, is a ghost horse who is helpful to girls but hates men. Thomas decides to investigate before Allison can tell him that the horse is not real. She feels guilty when Thomas goes missing.

     The three girls, along with Rob, Chuck , and the aging ranch hand, Old Slim, decide to go and look for Thomas. The adventure leads them across a raging river and into some abandoned mine shafts in the Heartbreak Valley. As the boys start disappearing, the girls must draw on their inner strength and conquer their fears to organize a rescue.

     The novel is divided into thirty, well-named, short chapters. The plot is easy to follow and interesting. The adventure is believable and resolved in a satisfactory manner. The characters develop throughout the novel and yet behave in realistic ways. The dislike between the cousins, Becky and Allison, is handled very well, and they change as they begin to understand more about each other. They do not become best friends although the reader can see the relationship that may occur. The romance theme is quite minor although each of the girls finds someone she is attracted to during the adventure. It is apparent that this theme will continue as more books are written in the series.

     Sharon Siamon has written realistic dialogue which moves the character development and plot along for the reader. The language used is a definite strength of this novel. The verb choice is varied and effective. The characters use excellent questions in their dialogue. The brief history of the author and the summaries of the other books in the series found at the end of the novel were interesting additions. Sharon Siamon is a well-known and accomplished young adult author of 15 previous novels. The love of horses was evident, and readers who like horses, animal stories, adventures or realistic fiction would enjoy this novel. Although the main characters were girls, both boys and girls would enjoy this novel. I would recommend it for school, public and personal libraries.

Highly Recommended.

Deborah Mervold is a retired educator, teacher-librarian and Resource Based Learning consultant in Shellbrook, SK.

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

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