CM . . .
. Volume XV Number 22. . . .June 26, 2009
Rodeo Horse. (Mustang Mountain, #5).
North Vancouver, BC: Walrus Books/Whitecap Books, 2003.
159 pp., pbk., $8.95.
Grades 5-9 / Ages 10-14.
Review by Aileen Wortley.
"Shadow!" Becky screamed. "Don't move!"
But poor Shadow was beyond listening to anything she had to say. A strand of the cruel wire was between her forelegs, another under her belly. Whichever way she moved, they tore at her flesh.
Becky felt as though the rips were to her own body. This was all her fault!
Shadow was neighing with terror and pain. Her eyes were red- rimmed with fear. Becky knew she was as dangerous now as she had been when she exploded in the stall. But this was not an unknown out-of-control horse. This was Shadow, who had trusted her, who she had betrayed into a ride that could cost her life.
"Easy now" Becky murmured. Once they crossed the electric eye beam, the clock would start, and she wanted Shadow to be in a decent position.
"Okay, go!" She let out the reins and Shadow took off. She made a wide but fast turn around the first barrel and headed for the second.
Suddenly Becky caught a flash of something in the dirt just ahead. She pulled Shadow to a sliding stop. "Steady, girl" she soothed.
"What's wrong?" Alison shouted from the sidelines. "Keep going!"
But Becky slid from Shadow's back. The mare had her head down, sniffing at something in the dirt.
"What is it girl? What's under there?" Becky squatted down and ran her hand through the ground in front of Shadow.
Rodeo Horse is the fifth volume in the popular "Mustang Mountain" series by Sharon Siamon. The series revolves around horse-lovers Meg, Becky and Alison. In this particular story, Alison's parents have separated, and Alison has been transplanted against her wishes from her upscale life in New York to a small town in Western Canada with her cousin Becky and her mother. She is not settling well until Becky introduces her to Sara, a barrel racing champion, and Sara's brother Rob who run stables left them by their parents. Alison soon realizes her own skills in barrel racing, and her life takes a positive turn. In the meantime, Becky is struggling to overcome her fears in training the wild horse Shadow. As she does so, she nurses secret concerns about Rob for whom she has formed an attachment but who seems to be struggling with serious health issues. At the same time, several strange accidents, which bear a certain similarity to each other, occur during racing events, and, needless to say, our heroines are active in solving the mystery. With the Calgary Stampede in the offing, Meg flies in from New York, and the friends reunite in the climax of the final races.
The book, a fast paced page-turner, has many elements in it that appeal to pre-teens, including friendship, rivalry, adventure, intrigue, an innocent romance and, of course, horses about which this reviewer felt she learned a lot. As a series title, it is above average in terms of its literary content with a well-written plot, tension and believable situations. The main characters, Alison and Becky, are perhaps portrayed rather stereotypically with Alison too extreme in her obnoxious, selfish behavior and Becky too timid and easily dominated. Most of the other characters are drawn fairly skimpily with the focus being on the two girls.
Sharon Siamon has written other horse book series including the "Saddle River" and "Wild Horse Creek" series. All are extremely popular with pre-teens and young teens. Having recently reviewed some of the books in the "Wild Horse Creek" series, I feel that they are the stronger series in terms of suspense and atmosphere created, but "Mustang Mountain" books have most of the ingredients necessary to create a successful series. Siamon knows her subject as she, herself, has a passion for horses, mountains and books and hence the sense of authenticity readers feel when reading her works. Rodeo Horse has already proved itself to be as popular in terms of attracting and entertaining loyal fans aged 10-14 as do all her other books.
Aileen Wortley, a retired librarian, lives in Toronto, ON.
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