Monday, March 24, 2014

A Hundred Horses by Sarah Lean

The blurb:
Nell is not happy about spending her school vacation on a boring farm with relatives she does not know.  But when a half-wild and mysterious girl named Angel steals the suitcase containing Nell's most precious procession, the two girls are united in an adventure of Angel's devising.  Nighttime  meetings and a horse that might just be magical pique Nell's curiosity, and soon she may find a way to put together the mystery of who Angel really is, understand the legends about the herd of a hundred horses, and also discover something special about herself.

Eleven-year-old Nell has a very busy schedule during the school year with all her after school activities.  There's drama club, math tutor, and swimming club to start.  When she gets home, it seems like her mother is always working or on the phone or focused on something else.   Nell was looking forward to spending her two weeks of Spring Break with her Nana just playing cards, talking, watching videos and tv.  But a medical emergency causes a change of plan and Nell readies herself to spend her weeks with relatives she's never met: Aunt Liv and her two young children on a farm.  

When Nell packs her bags, she comes across the carousel of metal horses that her father had made. It's the only thing that she has left of him.  Her mother had removed all traces of him after he abandoned them.  Nell wants to put the carousel together again and worries that her mother might discover this last trace of her father. She hides the carousel with her bag and brings it to Aunt Liv's.

Nell's not excited to spend the next weeks with chickens, geese, pigs, horses, cats, five-year-old Gem and seven-year-old Alfie.  But Gem and Alfie are so happy to have her with them, introducing her to the animals, baking her cupcakes, showing her all their favorite places.  She's the Big Sister-Cousin to them and she loves them back.

Nell encounters eleven-year-old Angel and is warned against her.  Regarded as a troublemaker and living in the woods, Angel is associated with all sorts of disappearing animals and property.  Angel seems surly, hostile, but there's something about her that reminds Nell of herself.   Nell learns about Angel and where she stays from her young cousins.  Nell searches for Angel and when she does find her, she follows her clues, and slowly makes friends.  

Angel forces Nell to take risks and keep secrets.  But their friendship brings the girls unexpected gifts and an adventure that changes their lives. 

I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Nell and her adventures with her young cousins and Angel.  A Hundred Horses is a story of hope, adventure and finding one's way. It drew me in from the start and I'm very much looking forward to sharing the story with my six-year-old niece.

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • ISBN-10: 0062122290 - Hardcover $16.99
  • Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books (January 7, 2014), 224 pages.
  • Review copy courtesy of the publisher.

About the Author:
Sarah Lean won the Schneider Family Book Award for her first novel for young readers, A Dog Called Homeless.  She lives in England with her husband, son, and dog.

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