CM . . .
. Volume XVIII Number 13. . . .November 25, 2011
Rescue Rider. (Sports Stories).
Janet M. Whyte.
Toronto, ON: James Lorimer, 2011.
136 pp., pbk. & hc., $9.95 (pbk.), $16.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-55277-868-5 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-55277-869-2 (hc.).
Grades 5-8 / Ages 10-13.
Review by Stacey Matson.
I slide open a stall door at South Hill. It's dark and cold, the air misty. The floor is covered with dirty straw and manure. I step in, instantly knee-deep in filth. It's like wading through mud. It's quicksand, pulling me down.
In the corner, in the shadows, I see movement. Zim, wearing a bridle of reddish leather and a gleaming English saddle, steps out of the darkness. He stares at me.
He's so sad it makes me want to cry. The way he looks. Full of longing. He needs something. What?
I'm almost under. The choking straw fills my mouth. I can't see. Can't breathe. I reach up blindly. The reins fall into my hands. I hold on.
Zim is backing up, pulling steadily, the whites of his eyes showing. Fierce and terrible.
I'm still holding on when I hear Ms. Caroline's voice.
"Did you learn anything today?"
Devlin Rani loves show jumping, and she's good at it, too as she and her horse, Mirror Glider, have placed in every recent competition. But when Mirror Glider is retired from show jumping, Dev is given a new horse to work with. Zim is a beautiful but troubled and difficult horse; however, Dev is determined to make him a champion, despite her troubles at school, an upcoming family wedding, and working at the stables and her dad's restaurant. Once Dev jumps into training with both feet, she discovers that her new horse is more than she bargained for, and she finds herself fighting for her own show jumping career and even Zim's life.
Rescue Rider is part of Lorimer's "Sport Stories" series, a group of books written for reluctant readers, so they are supposed to be "fast-paced and action-driven." Janet Whyte clearly infuses a passion for horse jumping into the story, and readers who love horses will enjoy reading about an in-depth account of show jumping and the work behind the competitions. As someone who is not knowledgeable about the work put into the relationship between a horse and its rider, I found this book did an excellent job of not leaving the reader out in the cold, and I didn't question the steps undertaken to train the animal. Also helpful was the glossary at the back of the novel which gives the reader an opportunity to "learn the lingo" associated with horse training and show jumping. Dev is a likeable protagonist surrounded by likeable secondary characters, in particular her school friend Manu. Some of the characters are less realistic and don't add much to the story, such as Dev's friend Elijah, a fellow stable hand, and readers aren't given much page time with Dev's father. This lack of character development makes it difficult to connect to the conflict between Dev's father and Dev regarding her training a dangerous horse.
The plot of Rescue Rider moves quickly, as expected in a novel written specifically for reluctant readers, but I found that Dev was always in a rush in the book. She runs to the stables for morning training, is late for class, has to rush off after lunch, then she dashes to the restaurant in the afternoon. It was understandable that her life is very busy, but I found that it got tiresome that Dev seemed to never stop and actually enjoy any of what she was doing until the conclusion of the conflict, which still brought her more work to add to her already overflowing plate of responsibilities. Overall though, Janet Whyte does a nice job of braiding her plotlines together into a tight, enjoyable novel for horse and animal lovers.
Stacey Matson has worked in educational and interpretive programming in cultural/historic sites across Canada. She is currently pursuing her MA in children's literature at the University of British Columbia.
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