CM . . .
. Volume XII Number 20 . . . .June 9, 2006
Gallop to the Sea. (Saddle Island Series, No. 1).
North Vancouver, BC: Walrus Books/Whitecap Books, 2006.
168 pp., pbk., $8.95.
Grades 3-6 / Ages 8-11.
Review by Myra Junyk.
“Whoa! Stop! Where are you taking me?” She prayed she wouldn’t slip under the horse’s hooves. Never wrap a rope around your hand! She could hear her riding instructor’s warning in her head.
Too late! The rope burned and she was dragged up and down rocks, through backyards and gardens in the thick white fog. Then, just as suddenly, the horse jolted to a halt- so close to a building that his nose was almost pressed against the window.
The window flew open. A woman with long gray hair peered out, “Get that beast out of my garden, Jennifer Morrisey,” she shouted. “He’s trampling my flowers!”
Kelsie stepped forward, flooded with relief at finding herself in one piece. “Sorry.”
“You’re not Jen,” the woman gasped. “Great Heavens, girl, you…you could be the ghost of my sister Elizabeth!”
Twelve-year-old Kelsie and 13-year-old Andy MacKay must stay at their Aunt Maggie Ridout’s home in Dark Cove, Nova Scotia, because their father is taking a job at a diamond mine in northern Canada. Since their mother died two years ago, the family has been moving from one mining town to another. Now, their father is trying to give them some stability in Dark Cove. As they arrive, a thick white fog envelopes the island, but Kelsie sees a large white horse standing in the road in front of their car. Kelsie goes on to rescue the runaway horse Caspar. When Jen Morrisey appears to find Caspar, the two girls become fast friends. Since Kelsie has been promised riding lessons at Harefield Farm where Jen works, the two girls are soon working on the horses together and building a relationship with troublesome Caspar who loves to “gallop to the sea.”
As Kelsie gets to know Dark Cove, she discovers that even a tiny place can be dangerous. One evening as the tide rushes in, she is trapped on the large rock called Grinder. Even though she is saved by 17-year old Gabriel Peters, the town hunk who spends his time helping his father on his lobster boat, her Aunt Maggie is furious about this incident and warns Kelsie and Andy not to wander into the ocean or to go near Saddle Island. In fact, Kelsie’s grandmother and grandfather drowned near Saddle Island many years ago.
Meanwhile, Caspar’s erratic behaviour causes Hank Harefield to sell him at auction. In a desperate attempt to save the white horse, Jen and Kelsie swim Caspar out to Saddle Island to hide him. Harefield comes after the girls. When a strong squall blows in from the ocean, the girls and Harefield are trapped in a very precarious situation on the deserted Saddle Island. Will Caspar be sold at auction? Will the girls survive the squall? Will Harefield have them arrested as horse thieves?
This novel is a fast-paced, exciting story set on the rugged coastline of Nova Scotia’s eastern shore. Dark Cove is a village of only about one hundred people who have fallen on hard times since the fish plant closed. The novel’s title comes from the white horse Caspar’s habit of galloping to the sea. In this novel, the sea plays a very important role. Although it is beautiful, it is also very dangerous. Our heroine Kelsie and her friends are almost drowned by the waves on Saddle Island. Aunt Maggie is very aware of the ocean’s power since she has lost her sister Elizabeth to the ocean. She is genuinely afraid that the ocean will also claim the life of her spirited and rebellious niece, Kelsie.
Sharon Siamon fills the novel with action, friendship and heroic adventure. Jen and Kelsie become fast friends. “Kelsie was the best friend she’d had in a long time – a different kind of friend. She’d never care what kind of house you lived in, or the clothes you wore, or your family’s hard luck.” The two girls enjoy each other’s company, and even include Andy and Gabriel in their schemes. However, there is also conflict in this novel. Kelsie and her Aunt are constantly clashing about what Kelsie is allowed to do – particularly on the ocean. Aunt Maggie is still living in fear of yet another accident like the one that killed Kelsie’s grandparents, but Kelsie is immune to the dangers of the sea.
This novel will attract young readers who love books about horses. The short chapters, easy vocabulary, fast-paced adventure, and likeable male and female characters will make this book an appealing choice. Sharon Siamon, the author of the nine-volume “Mustang Mountain” series, begins this new series based on the wild and exotic locale of deserted Saddle Island with rumors of buried treasure, dangerous reefs, family secrets, curses and untimely death. It bodes well for the future of this series!
Myra Junyk is the former Program Co-ordinator of Language Arts and Library Services at the Toronto Catholic District School Board. Currently, she is working as a literacy advocate and author.
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