Sunday, 9 June 2019

The One Dollar Horse, by Lauren St John                Junior Fiction

           Starting with Anna Sewell’s ‘Black Beauty’, there have always been children’s classic horse tales, a wealth of wonderful stories about the most beautiful animal on earth, and ‘The One Dollar Horse’ deservedly follows the tradition:  horse-loving children aged twelve and up (girls especially!) will identify with the many strong messages in this book, especially the overriding belief that if one wants it enough, nothing is beyond reach.
            This is not a new title, but the first in a trilogy about teenager Casey Blue, volunteer at a no-frills riding school in London’s East End.  Casey lives in a scruffy high-rise apartment with her beloved Dad, an ex-burglar who has zero luck finding a job after a stint inside.  Her mother died when she was two, so her Dad is everything to her – until fate steps in one day and she and her father rescue an ill and traumatised horse that has escaped from the local knacker’s yard:  from then on it is Casey’s mission to bring the dying animal back to good health – and back to life, a job much easier to imagine than to achieve. 
            Fortunately, Casey has some firm friends in the tiny horsey fraternity in the East End, including Mrs Smith, an elderly lady who once had a glittering career in Dressage and Show Jumping;  Mrs Smith is a woman who understands big dreams and how to realise them, having had huge success herself.  She knows that Casey and the One Dollar horse (so named because Casey’s dad found an American dollar on the day they rescued him – it was all he had in his wallet, so the knacker accepted it!) have a special, loving bond that occurs very seldom:  if they are coached correctly, they could be eventing stars – especially at Badminton, the biggest prize of all.
            Casey’s efforts to attain the standard required to reach Badminton hit many snags on the way, not least rivalry and derision from other competitors;  she finds that there are few highs and lots of lows in her efforts to lift her game, and just when all finally seems attainable, her father betrays her by selling her horse to the father of her rival competitor.  How Casey overcomes these massive barriers to the success of her dreams is told with humour, verve and a true sense of suspense by Ms St John, who writes like she’s been there, done that on every page:  great stuff.  FIVE STARS.

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