________________ CM . . . . Volume XIII Number 17 . . . .April 13, 2007


Miskeen: The Dancing Horse. (True Horse Stories).

Judy Andrekson. Illustrated by David Parkins.
Toronto, ON: Tundra Books, 2007.
83 pp., pbk., $8.99.
ISBN 978-0-88776-771-5.

Subject Headings:
Miskeen (Horse)-Juvenile literature.
Show jumpers (Horses)-Biography-Juvenile literature.
Circus animals-Biography-Juvenile literature.

Grades 2-5 / Ages 7-10.

Review by Tanya Boudreau.

*** /4



One couple returned to inspect the colt three times on the second day. The man had a deep voice, like the water in the creek that ran past the farm where the colt had lived. The woman's voice was higher and full of excitement.

"I really like him, Stephan," she said during their final visit. They did not come into the pen this time, but leaned on the metal bars and watched him from outside. The young horse pricked his ears toward them, already beginning to recognize their voices.

"I don't know. He's not exactly pretty. He has quite a big head and - "

"But look at the angle of his shoulders and that strong neck," the woman interrupted. "He's a good age, ready for work. Imagine him after some training and muscling up. He'll be handsome then. He has a nice, wide chest and very good legs. His trot is free and his action is good. I do think he'd work out well."


Miskeen was trained to dance. In the late 1980's, at the age of three, Miskeen was bought at the Dimitrovden Festival in Bulgaria, and taken to a place where no horse could be happy. And it's not real dancing if you're not happy.

     Based on actual events, Judy Andrekson recounts Miskeen's story as part of her "True Horse Stories" series. Miskeen had to learn to dance in an environment where he was subjected to intimidations, threats, and eventually, whips. He was expected to learn, and learn quickly, despite long confining trips, too-hot-to-work days, and distracting new sights and sounds. At first, his pent-up energy and emotions come out in the form of pawing and pacing. But with no where to go but a circus ring, where training was becoming increasingly traumatizing, Miskeen was suffering. He was slowly being damaged. What little trust he had in people and what little safety he felt around people were vanquished the day Miskeen was teased and whipped by a cruel young boy. After reacting violently to this torment, Miskeen is punished severely. All his teeth, but the internal artback four, are inhumanely extracted from his mouth. Miskeen's physical and metal deterioration escalate, not coming to a stop until the day he meets 20-year-old Vicky Malia, the owner of Shaheen Stables. Even though he faced years of hardships in the traveling circus, Miskeen's personality always managed to find a way to shine through. This was a horse that gave "hugs!" But the day Vicky Malia saw Miskeen for the first time, she knew he needed immediate help. Vicky, with the help of her mom, Ann, rehabilitates Miskeen to the point where he's looking good, feeling good, and doing "good!" When it's time to say goodbye to Miskeen, they do so knowing good things are in store for Miskeen, and his new family.

     Although this is a sad story, there are some comical moments, thanks to Miskeen's sense of humor. Fortunately, he senses whom he can play his trick on, and on whom he cannot! And good things finally come to this deserving horse in the form of a new name, a new playmate, and a new family.

      Eight black and white illustrations by award-winning illustrator David Parkins are included in Miskeen: The Dancing Horse. Having illustrated over 50 children's books and the cartoon The Beano, David Parkins had the job of illustrating Miskeen in good times and bad. He takes Miskeen as a healthy young colt into the times when training was easier for Miskeen and involved circus monkeys riding on his back, to times when training was near impossible because fire was involved. Readers will see the very damage that Vicky saw that first day Miskeen was left at Shaheen Stables, but, by the end of the story, they will come to see a much healthier Miskeen again!

      Living in Alberta since the age of 20, Judy Andrekson wrote about something she is passionate about — horses. In this book, young readers will see circus life through Svetlana and Stepan's eyes, as well as through Miskeen's eyes. It's at the end of the book, when Miskeen is alone and feeling safe again, that there is more dancing. But I think this time, Miskeen is dancing with a little happiness. This defenseless horse perseveres through many years of suffering, but his will to live was never broken. Miskeen lived, thanks to Vicky Malia. And he lived to show everyone he had promising potential in new areas, and the willingness to trust again.


Tanya Boudreau is a Youth Services Librarian and Resource 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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