________________ CM . . . . Volume XI Number 9 . . . .January 7, 2005


The Week of the Horse.

Jocelyn Reekie.
Vancouver, Raincoast Books, 2004.
141 pp., pbk., $12.95.
ISBN 1-55192-655-5.

Subject Heading:
Horses-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 4-6 / Ages 9-11.

Review by Carole Marion.

*** /4



No one understands how important it is for 12-year-old Paulie to save Duke from auction. The old, cantankerous horse is to be sold to a butcher after the local stable where Paulie works is forced to close down.

     Paulie loves horses more than anything. Mucking out the stalls, feeding and grooming the horses after school and on weekends enables her to be close to them. In return, stable manager Bob pays her a small wage, teaches her stable management, and allows her to exercise the horses whenever they aren't being used for lessons or rentals. They had struck up this arrangement after she had spent a year hanging around the stable, watching everything he did, and asking countless questions.

     Duke is her favourite. At twenty-five years of age, Duke is a difficult and temperamental horse to handle, and Paulie knows what happens at auction to horses like Duke.

Bob bought many of the stable's horses at auction. He'd shown her how to bid and what kind of tricks the Sellers used to get the best prices for their stock. He'd shown her how to assess the animals for sale, too. She knew very well what kinds of horses were not bought by anyone who was looking for a horse to ride. Old horses, homely horses, horses with an 'attitude' Duke kinds of horses.

     Paulie's large family can't afford to own or stable a horse, but she must find a way to save Duke from the Railway Three meat plant. That's where Nana comes in. Nana is her grandmother's mother. Old and frequently forgetful, Nana lives with her overly protective daughter. The house's backyard porch is her domain, and Paulie has spent many hours there, listening to the sound of the ocean in Nana's collection of conch shells and fingering the rough, ice-coloured crystals lining the windowsills. Paulie and her great-grandmother are very close, and Paulie isn't surprised when Nana shows up at the auction and successfully helps her bid for Duke. But once purchased, where can Duke stay? And how can a 12-year-old and her aged Nana possibly hide a horse in the porch at the rear of her grandmother's home?

     At times humourous, at times heart-wrenching, The Week of the Horse is a story of a young girl who struggles for acceptance in a large family where other people's needs often supercede her own. The strong, intergenerational ties are prevalent throughout the story, not only between Paulie and Nana, but also between the young girl and Bob, the stable manager, who is forced to move away in search of employment when the stable closes.

Paulie turned her face away. "Are you going to like it up north, Bob?"

"Can't tell for sure," he answered. "Haven't been there yet. But I never went anyplace I didn't expect to like."

Bob removed the straw from his mouth. "Well now, I don't guess I have to do anything. There's a pretty piece of land right here I've got my eye on, but buyin' land takes money and saving money is one thing I haven't been too good at. North is where the work is. From what I hear, the big ranches up there are beggin' for experienced cowboys looking for good money. That's me."

To her surprise and his, Paulie slid her arms around him and buried her face in his shirt front. "I don't want you to go," she said.

To his knowledge, Bob had never been cried over before. He didn't know what to do. "Here now," he said, "there's no call to do and do that. You and I have been friends, haven't we?"

Paulie nodded.

"Well, friends want for one another to keep seeing new things. Movin' and seein' things kinda keeps the old blood pumping 'cause when a person quits being interested in new things, he's dead, or he might as well be."

He unwound her arms and, pushing her back, leaned down until they were eye to eye. "Friends smile when a friend moves on and wish him high times. Even ol' Duke is smilin'. Look at his silly white grin. There you go, now that's a pretty memory for me to take with me. Where are you gonna take that old cayuse to?"

"I don't think I should tell you," she said.

"Why not?"

"Because I want you to think I'm staying out of trouble."

"Aren't you?"

"I hope so."

He laughed. "I'm gonna miss you," he said

     Stories about horses continue to be popular, as reflected in the numerous paperback series for young readers today. Consider modern classics like Marguerite Henry's horse stories, Steven Farley's "Young Black Stallion" series, HarperCollins' "Thoroughbred" series, Sharon Siamon's "Mustang Mountain," Nikki Tate's "Stablemates" and "Riding Academy" by Alison Hart. The Week of the Horse is more than a book about a horse. It is the story of a spunky girl's courage against odds that seem insurmountable and the support she finds in unexpected places.


Carole Marion, a Branch Librarian with Calgary Public Library's Shawnessy Branch, has been working with youth and their caregivers for over sixteen years.

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

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