Thursday, November 10, 2011

Backyard Horses: Horse Dreams

Prolific author Dandi Daley Mackall has written a charming new series for girls ages eight to twelve, called Backyard Horses. Horse Dreams, the first book in the series, introduces us to fourth-grader Ellie James, who longs for a beautiful show horse to call her own. Joining Ellie are her little brother, Ethan, who can't hear, and her best friend, Colt, who manages to still be a friend, despite entering the awkward stage of boy-girl friendships.

When Ellie's teacher assigns a science experiment for class, Ellie decides to try three methods of acquiring a horse. She will beg her parents for a show horse, cry and try to convince her parents to buy her a show horse, and pray for a show horse. After the experiment, she will document her results. Although Ellie's teacher laughs, she likes Ellie and is willing to allow her to try the experiment. However, Ellie routinely gets in trouble for day-dreaming in class. When Ellie blurts out "There's a horse out the window," everyone assumes Ellie is day-dreaming again.

When Ellie gets home from school, she learns her mom lost the same scrawny, filthy horse Ellie saw out the window! Thus begins a race to capture the horse before animal control stuns it. Plot Spoiler Ahead: Ellie calms the horse down and returns it to the rescue barn. Slowly, her dreams begin to change. Could this ordinary "backyard horse" be the answer to her prayers?

What I Like: I love the verse Mackall chose to begin the series. She gives us a brief definition of a backyard horse, saying, ". . . Backyard horses are often plain and ordinary on the outside. . . but frequently beautiful on the inside." Then, she quotes I Samuel 16:7, " The Lord said to Samuel, 'Don't judge by his outward appearance, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn't see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." This is a message tween girls can't hear too often.

I also like the inclusion of sign language in the book. Each chapter title is written in words and sign language. Ellie's friend, Colt, learned sign language just so he could talk to Ethan, too.

Mackall includes a glossary of horse terms, as well as a sign language alphabet at the back of the book.

The book is printed with large font and relatively easy vocabulary, making it perfect for younger readers ready for chapter books, or struggling readers, as well as any girls who love horses.

What I Dislike: Nothing.

Overall Rating: Excellent

Age Appeal: 8-12

Publisher Info: Tyndale House Publishers, 2011; ISBN: 978-1-4143-3916-0; Paperback, 150 pages, $5.99

Buy it Now at for $5.49

OR Buy it at for $5.99.


Bronwen Scott-Branagan said...

I do like the review of this book. It sounds like a great story that would appeal to a wide age-range, especially girls.

Erin said...

Thanks, Bronwen, for writing! My oldest just read this book, and enjoyed it a lot, too. I hope you have a chance to read it! Thanks for reading CCBR! Erin