Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Horses of Half Moon Ranch

Author Jenny Oldfield has put together a series of books marketed for middle school aged readers about life on a guest ranch. The series is called The Horses of Half Moon Ranch, and the first book is titled Wild Horses. I would have loved to have a series like this when I was young. Character Kirstie Scott's family moves from the city to the country somewhere in the Colorado Rockies to open up their home as a guest ranch. Kirstie helps out by acting as a guide on trail rides -- a dream of many young girls, and the perfect setting for juvenile books.

On one trail ride she and the guests stumble upon a herd of wild Mustangs that includes a black stallion. Through a series of mishaps, the stallion gets injured in a rock slide and the rest of the herd ends up trapped in a canyon. Wild Horses is about Kirstie's heroic efforts to save the injured stallion and set him free.

Though this was not a book for my age level, I was still quite enthralled and took it with me to work to read on my lunch break. I found myself thinking about the characters and horses and what would happen next, and looked forward to getting a chance to sit down and read some more.

I did find the dialogue distracting at times, as I don't know many city girls who use the word "reckon" repeatedly. So many characters in this book used the word "reckon" that I found it to be irritating. I had to keep reminding myself not to let the stereotype bother me, because the storyline and writing was otherwise very well done.

The second book in the series, Rodeo Rocky, is a new adventure for our main character Kirstie and her best friend Lisa. Kirstie and her mother rescue a wild Mustang stallion from a rodeo organizer who planned to make money off abusing the animal.

While I was touched that Kirstie's mother was moved to give up her life savings to buy the stallion so that her daughter would not be upset, I had to wonder where the mother kept herself when her young daughter was "breaking" the stallion. The mother not only was mostly absent, but she and other adults put pressure on Kirstie to train the stallion to be useful around the ranch so that they could recoup the money the mother paid for it, at the same time threatening to sell other horses. Not many parents would lay that kind of responsibility on a child.

I had to suspend belief while reading this book, as most adults, none-the-less a child, do not have the skills to train a wild stallion, but this is the stuff that good juvenile books are made of. The children who read these books want that kind of freedom and to feel good about being brave. Children who are kept under their parent's wing cannot possibly have such wonderful adventures as these portrayed in The Horses of Half Moon Ranch.

I think the fact that I even worried about Kirstie's welfare is testament to the power of the writing. I was able to not just get involved in the book, but to get lost in it. Conflict and suspense are what keep a reader reading, and author Jenny Oldfield knows how to use those skills.

For more information on this series and when other books will be released, visit Sourcebooks.


Andrea said...

I would have loved those too when I was smaller!! They look good!! I love horse books like those!! Great review!!

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

It seems it's always a wild stallion being tamed or idolized in these types of books, eh?

Thanks for the book reviews, NM.
I would have truly enjoyed these books when I was younger.
The covers, especially are quite beautiful and draw you in :)


IamRockinHorse said...

When I was a young girl living in Europe, I got a lot of English pony books from the Seagull Library Series. I really enjoyed them. They would always write about ponies, referring to pony clubbing, head collars, paddocks, and rugging up. I remember one was called A Pony For Two. Another one, a western, was called Sagebrush Sorrel. I must still have them around somewhere. I'll have to look around.