________________ CM . . . . Volume XIII Number 6 . . . . November 10, 2006


Stories From Sunset Stables. 

Alyssa Benesch.
Penticton, BC: Durango Publishing, 2006.
277 pp., pbk., $24.95.
ISBN 1-55422-123-4. 

Subject Heading:
Grades 5-9 / Ages 10-14.
Review by Deborah Mervold. 

*** /4  


When her time came, she [Sam] walked Mist into the starting point and mounted her.  

She make sure her heels were down and Mist was all set to go. 

When the judges were ready and the music started playing, she kicked Mist straight into a trot and slowly worked her way up to a canter before jumping the first jump. 

Mist clearly went over the first two jumps but on the third one, she nipped the pole with her hoof. The jump stayed in one piece and so the judges counted it. The judges didn’t count it if the jumps were knocked down. She went over the fourth, fifth, and the sixth without error, but just before the second to last jump, something went terribly wrong! 

Alyssa Benesch is a young writer from Alberta who loves horses. Her passion shows in the eight stories that make up this collection. Sam is Samantha Grace, the only child of Joan and Tim who own and run a ranch that trains and boards horses. Sam is the major character in the stories which cover a period of four to five years. The stories are in chronological order although they could be read independently as well. 

     Other characters include Charley, a ranch hand, who retires in the seventh story, “Above and Beyond” and Mandy, a friend of Sam’s who helps on the ranch. There are several other characters who appear in only one story, such as KJ in “Stolen Friendship.” The horses are described through the stories and are connected. Mist, who is Sam’s first mare, gives birth to Spirit. Many details are included on the handling, grooming and training of horses. 

     Each of the eight stories has a different plot focus. “Mist’’s Little Spirit” relates the story of Mist who is a show jumper. “A Miracle is Born” tells the story of Miracle, a young colt left to die by a neighboring farmer. After he realizes the colt has lived, the farmer tries to steal the colt back. In “Good-bye Mist,” Sam must deal with the death of her beloved horse. “The Wild Mustang” is a horse that Sam is trying to train with few results. “Stolen Friendship” shows the relationship of Sam and KJ which starts out negatively but ends in a positive way as KJ tells Sam about the plot to steal horses from the Grace ranch. In “A Broken Spirit” a horse is injured in a storm, and Sam nurses it back to health. In “Above and Beyond,” Sam comes into conflict with Stacey when they are both competing in the same competition. “A Tough Winter” shows what happens when flu strikes the horses on the ranch. 

     The language is appropriate for the intended audience. Themes are simple and easy to understand. There is good attention to detail particularly with the horses. Plots are interesting and would certainly appeal to horse or animal lovers especially those who enjoy realistic stories. In several stories notes were written in a different type for emphasis. 

     The characters tended to be undefined as the reader finds out very little about the people. Even Sam, who is the major character, is not described in any detail. At one point in “Goodbye Mist,” Sam is upset but wipes her tears and goes back to sleep. The story tends to be direct rather than emotional even when emotion is mentioned. The relationships between Sam and KJ and then again with Stacey are very superficial. They dislike each other and then something happens and quickly their feelings change. Very little is told about the other continuing characters so the reader doesn’t see any growth or change in the characters. 

     There are also errors in the text which may be distracting to some readers. These errors include the incorrect use of “passed” for “past," “soft” for “softly,” “loose” for “lose,” “Galleys” for “Galley’s.” In some of the stories, there is an overuse of pronouns which leads to some confusion by the reader.  

     As a first book, however, this is an excellent collection of stories by a young writer. Stories From Sunset Stables would be enjoyed by horse lovers and would be very suitable for public, school and personal libraries. Readers will look forward to the next publication by this author.  


Deborah Mervold. a retired teacher-librarian, educator and Resource Based Learning Consultant, lives in Shellbrook, Saskatchewan. 

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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