If you have a child who likes horses, Valerie Ormond’s book is well worth their time
The best gifts are those whose value far exceeds their actual cost. A prime example of this is the gift of literature, which, when done properly, not only can stay with someone throughout their life but also help mold the person they ultimately become. So, the next time you’re considering such a gift for, say, your adolescent daughter, consider Valerie Ormond’s Believing in Horses.
Set in Bowie, MD, Believing in Horses is the charming story of Sadie Navarro, a 12-year-old girl who has arrived on the Eastern Shore as the latest in the many stops of her dad’s Navy career.
Though these constant uprootings are unsettling to Sadie and her only sibling, 16-year-old-brother Austin, they are nonetheless a resilient clan — a fact that is certainly tested when the kids learn that their dad has been deployed to Afghanistan for a year.
As the fulfillment of a longstanding wish and as a well-timed conciliatory gesture for being such a good little trooper, Sadie’s parents decide to get her a horse. Their choice is a 4-year-old Andalusian-Arabian-American Saddlebred mix named “Color Me Lucky.” At 15.1- hands high, with a sweet disposition and intelligence to match, “Lucky” is the perfect horse for Sadie. As Sadie puts Lucky through his paces — and Lucky puts Sadie through hers — they meet a diverse cast of characters along the way — from the kind and benevolent to the shady and even downright dangerous.
But Sadie is a girl with as much passion and character as her new equine companion, so when she learns of 10 horses slated for the auctioneer’s block, their uncertain fate immediately propels her to action.
The story of Believing in Horses is one of a young girl finding her voice and the strength to fight for others while simultaneously finding those same things for herself. It’s not so much a coming-of-age as it is a coming-of-self, a discovery of a central character component that likely foreshadows the woman her grandchildren will one day come to know and love.
Both appropriately and effectively, the book is targeted to older children and adolescents. There are no big words, sex, violence or other adult situations of any kind. Neither are there any existentialist crises or deep plumbing into the depths of the human psyche. However, you will learn plenty of interesting stuff along the way about horses and their proper care. As such, Believing in Horses is a 195-page gentle breeze of a read that is virtually guaranteed to entertain your child for many hours while imparting a sense of commitment to a cause and the virtues of altruistic pursuits.
Were I to offer one critique, it would be that the character of Austin, Sadie’s brother, emerged as a compelling figure in the narrative and, as such, might have been more fully developed. A nice future project for the author to consider would be to write a sequel that casts the lovable Sadie and her enigmatic yet charismatic older brother as co-protagonists in a tale of conflict that fully realizes a truly dynamic brother-sister team. This might make for some highly worthwhile reading for children and teens of both genders.
Either way, Believing in Horses is definitely worth believing in.
BELIEVING IN HORSES By Valerie Ormond
Paperback, 195 pages, J.B. Max Publishing (2011)