The Girl From Snowy River, by Jackie French

I may not have lost my legs, she thought, but I’ve lost those I love forever. The war had savaged Mum, and Mrs Mack, and every woman in the valley. The war was over but the pain was still there, for her and the families left behind, not just for the men who had been maimed.

We’re all bits that the war didn’t take, Flinty thought, gazing at the stranger’s back. But those left behind had a right to know more about the beast who’d chewed their lives and spat the remnants out.

It is 1919, and in the Snowy Mountains Flinty McAlpine is trying to hold her family together – what is left of her family, at least, since the Great War tore it apart. One of her brothers was killed in the war, and another is so scarred that he seems unable to stay at home. Her mother died, Flinty suspects of a broken heart, and her father too passed away, after contracting influenza brought home by returning troops. Flinty may be only 17, but she is now responsible for her two younger siblings and for the running of the farm and the paying of the bills.

When Flinty meets a stranger in a wheelchair, she presumes he is another returned soldier – and he is – but somehow he is not from the Great War, but from a war far in her future, the Vietnam War. Just like Flinty’s brother, and Sandy, the man she loves, Nicholas is scarred by his war time experiences. They may be from different times, but somehow Flinty and Nicholas can see and hear each other, and it may be that they can help each other to heal.

The Girl from Snowy River is a dramatic, heart warming story of survival. Flinty is faced with many challenges – the loss of her parents and brother, her strained relationship with Sandy, the financial stress of trying to keep hold of the family farm, and being a girl in a man’s world – but she also faces unexpected physical challenges, too.

With reference and links to several famous Australian bush poems, The Girl from Snowy River is a wonderful celebration of the Snowy Mountain region as well as an exploration of the history of the time and issues of the impact of war, the role of women, family relationships and more.

The Girl from Snowy River

The Girl from Snowy River, by Jackie French
Angus & Robertson, an imprint of Harper Collins, 2012
ISBN 9780732293109

Available from good bookstores or online from Fishpond.

Brumby's Run, by Jennifer Scoullar

The most important meeting of her life, and she was running late. Faith had offered to come along, but Sam had sensed her reluctance. In the end she’d gone off in a cab by herself, under a gloomy sky. It was probably for the best. This was something she needed to do, alone. The car swished through the rainy streets. Sam stared out the window, stomach knotted tight in anticipation. She was about to meet a sister she’d known about for less than twenty-four hours.

Samantha Carmichael is enjoying a carefree summer before she starts a university degree. But, over lunch, her mother delivers two stunning pieces of news – firstly that Samantha is adopted, and secondly, that she has an identical twin sister, Charlie. It seems the truth has come out now because Charlie is critically ill, and only Sam can save her.

Sam and Charlie have grown up in different worlds, but their connection is instant, and soon Sam finds herself offering to look after her sister’s home at Brumby’s Run, a propety high in the Victorian Alps, while Charlie recovers in the city. Sam knows horses, but she has never lived in the country, and now her days are filled with looking after cattle, breaking brumbies, and getting the run-down property back on track. Fortunately she has a helping hand from the handsome Drew Chandler, the son of the neighbouring property owner and Charlie’s former boyfriend.

As the time for Charlie’s return draws closer, Sam finds herself faced with an unwelcome possibility – has she stolen her sister’s life, and will Charlie want it back?

Brumby’s Run is a moving tale of family secrets and relationships, rural life, and the brumby – the wild mountain dwelling horses of the Australian alps. Whilst this is a romance, the issues dealt with are important too, and dealt with well. the exploration of the many issues surrounding brumbys is especially well handed, leaving the reader well informed.

Issues aside, the key here is that this is an accessible read, with romance at its heart.

Brumby’s Run, by Jennifer Scoullar
Penguin 2012

Available in good bookstores or online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

The Emperor's New Clothes Horse, by Tony Wilson & Sue deGennaro

‘I’d trade all these trophies for one Cristobel Cup!’

The Emperor loves horse racing, and his horses have won every ace in the land – except the Cristobel Cup. He will do anything to win one. When the Royal Trainers fail to find him the perfect horse he turns to a pair of brilliant international trainers who produce a special horse. They warn him though: only clear-thinking citizens will see the horse for what it is- a mighty racehorse. Those who are stupid will see just a wooden clothes horse.

This is a witty take on the classic story The Emperor’s New Clothes, with a clothes horse taking centre stage in this equine twist. Youngsters who haven’t heard the original will get almost as much out of the story as those who have, though the two work well together and for older children there is an opportunity for comparison of the two. Illustrations, using Copic markers and black biro are delightfully humorous. The unusual layout is also clever, with each illustration spanning the centre of each spread, and text appearing on the outer third of each page against pastel backgrounds picking up the colours of the illustrations.

Suitable for early childhood, but with applicability well into the school years.

The Emperor’s New Clothes Horse, by Tony Wilson & Sue deGennaro
Scholastic, 2012
ISBN 9781742830452

This book is available in good bookstores or online from Fishpond.

When Louise discovers the wild brumbies roaming the mountain parklands are regularly mustered for the sales yards and many turned into pet food, she is keen to save them.

Reviewed by Hilary Smillie

Paula Boer’s first book in the Brumbies series is a gem. Her two young protagonists, Louise, recently moved to the Snowy Mountains area from town, and Ben, a local farm boy, have struck up a friendship with their common love of horses. When Louise discovers the wild brumbies roaming the mountain parklands are regularly mustered for the sales yards and many turned into pet food, she is keen to save them. The teenagers come across part of a herd and two particularly attractive brumbies capture their hearts. Louise who borrows Ben’s horses to ride, loves a buckskin mare, and dreams of owning her. Ben has his eye on a colt. They decide to hold their own muster.

Thus begins a remarkable adventure for the pair and any horselover will be enthralled by the storyline. What elevates Brumbies above the usual pony read is that not only is it set in wild mountain country with all its tough challenges, but Paula has described every detail of what riding, mustering and wild horse-taming is all about. Her experience as a horsewoman, mustering on remote cattle stations and capturing and breaking in brumbies to name a few of her talents, shines through with gripping authenticity.

Readers with little knowledge of horses will be delightfully educated and this story is bound to be a hit in schools as well as in the wider readership. Paula describes the birdlife and fauna of the Australian bush with great enthusiasm. A Glossary is included for added information.

Rowena Evans’  engaging black and white illustrations throughout the book complement the story. The cover, with its pen and wash depiction of a herd of brumbies on a background of vivid green, is very attractive.  Brumbies is a tremendous story for all ages and may even become an Aussie icon.


Brumbies by Paula Boer Illus by Rowena Evans
(IFWG Publishing) ISBN -978-0-646-56641-2 RRP $16.99
Published 2011

Lightning Jack, by Glenda Millard & Patricia Mullins

When Sam sees the wild black brumby he is determined to ride him – and he does, donning oilskin and boots before rounding up stampeding cattle, flying him, Pegasus-like, through thunder clouds, evading bushrangers, and even winning the Melbourne Cup against Phar Lap.

Sam Tully eyed the brumbies at the muster in the park
and among them as they galloped he saw one that stood apart…
a stallion, black as midnight, on his brow a jagged blaze.
A giant horse, a midnight horse,
A horse called Lightning Jack.

When Sam sees the wild black brumby he is determined to ride him – and he does, donning oilskin and boots before rounding up stampeding cattle, flying him, Pegasus-like, through thunder clouds, evading bushrangers, and even winning the Melbourne Cup against Phar Lap. Through these fanciful adventures we see Sam riding triumphantly, joy on his face. But, at last a gentle voice brings him back to the present – and we see Sam slip from a carousel horse and return to his real life, until in bed that night he once again hears Lightning Jack coming close.

Lightning Jack is a wonderful new picture book offering from one of Australia’s most loved chidlren’s authors, Glenda Millard. The ballad-style text sweeps the reader along on Sam’s adventures, and makes a perfect read aloud offering. The illustrations are an added delight – carefully crafted in collage using layers of tissue and papers. Readers will be fascinated with an examination of the individual elements and the fabulous whole they create.

Text and illustration together create a sumptuous offering which will please adult and child reader alike.

Lightning Jack

Lightning Jack, by Glenda Millard & Patricia Mullins
Scholastic, 2012
ISBN 9781741693911

This book is available in good bookstores or online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Foal's Bread, by Gillian Mears

Foal’s Bread is a heart-tugging tale of love and of survival, set against the backdrop of the high-jumping circuit of rural Australia prior to Word War 2.

The sound of horses’ hooves turns hollow on the farms west of Wirri. If a man can still ride, if he hasn’t totally lost the use of his legs, if he hasn’t died in the part of his heart that understands such things, then he should go for a gallop. At the very least he should stand at the road by the river imagining that he’s pushing a horse up the steep hill that leads to the house on the farm once known as One Tree.

Noah Childs is just fourteen when she meets Roley Nancarrow at a country show, but their connection is instant. Both love to ride – and to jump horses. It seems they were meant to be together, and when, years later they marry, they feel unstoppable. They will form their own high-jumping team and travel the circuit an unbeatable pair. But first there are children to raise, and the family farm to work, and the Roley is struck by lightning. His damaged body becomes gradually unable to fulfill the dreams they once held, and the bond between the pair is stretched by hardship and pain.

Foal’s Bread is a heart-tugging tale of love and of survival, set against the backdrop of the high-jumping circuit of rural Australia prior to Word War 2. Across three generations of one family – Roley’s parents, he, his wife and sisters, and, their children, readers see the struggles of trying to survive financially and emotionally on a rural property. Common amongst all generations is a grittiness which shows strength and yet, when their is an inability to express need and emotion, it is this grittiness which stands in the way of happiness. The jumpers int he family – Roley and Noah, and later their daughter Lainey, all seem to share a desire to reach great heights, to fly as Noah puts it, which in Noah’s case is never quite reached.

This isn’t an easy book, but it is a beautiful one. There are moments of joy and of sadness, and anger, too.

Foal's Bread

Foal’s Bread, by Gillian Mears
Allen & Unwin, 2011
ISBN 9781742376295

This book is available in good bookstores, or online from Fishpond.

Moonstone Promise, by Karen Wood

Last one!’ yelled Tom, as he sent a bale of prime lucerne tumbling off the back of the semitrailer.
Luke let it fall to the ground end-first. It bounced, then toppled onto its side with a thud. He stabbed his hay hooks into it and with one last surge of energy heaved it up to the top of the stack, where Lawson was arranging the bales tightly in a crisscross pattern.
‘That it?’ yelled Lawson.
‘Yep,’ Luke shouted back, hanging the hooks onto the beam that ran along the wall of the shed. He was dripping with sweat, itchy from the tiny stalks and dust, and his muscles ached, but he felt great. ‘That oughta keep their bellies full for a while,’ he said, looking up at the mountain of hay.
Lawson scrambled down the side of the stack like a mountain goat and brushed the loose green leaves from the front of his shirt. ‘Eight hundred bales, I’m knackered!’

Fostered teenager Luke loves living with Harry on this horse property. He loves the horses, the open space and the fact that Harry seems to actually like him and want him around. But Harry is sick. When Harry dies, and tempers flare, Luke flees the place he’s called home. He heads north in search of brumbies and work and a place to belong. He finds the brumbies, he finds learning and peace in the great outdoors. But there’s unfinished business back at Coachwood Crossing and it won’t leave him alone. He’s not sure he’ll ever be able to return, even after the moonstone promise he made to Jess.

Moonstone Promise is the second instalment in a series from Karen Wood. The first instalment, Diamond Spirit introduced Jess and her horse-filled world. It also introduced Luke. Moonstone Promise is his story, and begins where Diamond Spirit finishes. But it could easily be read as a stand-alone novel. Luke struggles with the demons of his past as well as uncertainty of his future. His meeting with Bob and two of his friends leads to a connection with and reading of the land that provides strength and direction. Wood’s portrayal of Gulf characters is at once playful and insightful. Luke’s journey is more than physical although you’ll have to read the novel to discover where he finds his home. Recommended for secondary readers and anyone who loves horses.

Moonstone Promise, Karen Wood
Allen & Unwin 2011
ISBN: 9781742373164

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

This book can be purchased from good bookstores, or online from Fishpond.

Diamond Spirit, by Karen Wood

‘Hey, Dimey, you’re going on a holiday!’
Jess ran a soft brush over Diamond’s sides, making her gleam. The pony was a picture of health. ‘You and Rocko together, eating yourselves stupid for three whole weeks!’ Jess swapped the brush for a comb and began untangling Diamond’s thick black tail. Speckles and dots blanketed the pony’s Appaloosa rump and three distinct silver diamonds trickled down her hindquarters like falling stars.
Her phone buzzed and rumbled in her jeans’ pocket.
Shara: S^
Jess grinned and looked to the top of the driveway, where Shara stood waiting. she gave the tail a few more quick strokes and then pulled the pony’s lead rope from the fence. Shara was her buddy, her bestie…

Jess and Shara are best buddies, competing as a duo in local pony club events. Then Diamond has a terrible accident and Jess’s whole world starts to fall apart. Shara won’t tell her what happened. In the space of a day, Jess loses her beloved pony and her best friend. Gradually she makes new friends, and realises that it might possible to love another horse. But the pain of Diamond’s accident and Shara’s betrayal don’t fade quickly. There is a mystery around her pony’s death, and Jess is determined to solve it. She needs to understand before she can even think about owning another horse, or riding again.

Diamond Spiritis Book One in a new ‘horsey’ trilogy set in rural Australia. Jess has suffered her first big loss, or really, two losses. Friendships are very important, particularly to young teenage girls like Jess, but they are also very fragile. Karen Wood explores the world of horses and those who work closely with them. She explores themes like hatred, forgiveness, honesty and trust. There is also an exploration of connection with land and the idea that not all things can be explained scientifically. Readers who love horses will immerse themselves in familiar language, in a familiar world. Other readers will enjoy the themes of friendship and adventure. Recommended for upper primary to lower-secondary readers.

Diamond Spirit (Diamond Spirit Trilogy)

Diamond Spirit, Karen Wood
Allen & Unwin 2011
ISBN: 9781742373157

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author

This book can be purchased in good bookstores, or online from Fishpond.

Horse Mad Whispers, by Kathy Helidoniotis

‘Mum. Mum!’
I sat bold upright in bed, the sound of my own voice echoing in my room. I was breathing hard. There was sweat on my forehead and my favourite nightie, the one that said I heart horses, stuck damply to my chest.
I’d had it again. The nightmare.
It was always the same but never any less frightening. The black horse would scream, his hard body would lash and twist and his silver shoes would flash like a spotlight in my face, blinding me. I’d feel the terror and then the pain and then I’d be ripped from sleep in a tangle of sheets and sticky hair.

Horse Mad Whispers opens at night, with Ashleigh Miller experiencing what has become a familiar nightmare. But even awake, she struggles to find a way through the accident that left her injured and a horse in danger of being put down. Worse still, she’s scared she may never be able to ride a horse again. Not just because of her injuries, but because she’s lost her nerve. All she ever wanted to do was go to Linley, where horseriding is part of the curriculum. Now she’s there and it’s not quite the dream she thought it would be. It’s hard being away from home and her friends, Becky and Pree, even though she’s making new friends at boarding school. There are bullies there, just like there were at home. She’s not ridden Honey for weeks and not everyone has forgiven her for the accident.

Ashleigh is now in Year 7 and is boarding at a school where horses board too. Horse skills are taught as part of the curriculum as well as being extracurricular. Ashleigh has to recover from her injuries, adjust to the new school and it’s particular challenges, deal with a hated and hating roommate and more. She’s discovered that getting what you most wanted, isn’t always quite the dream she imagined it would be. She also begins to see the world a little though the eyes of others, moving beyond the egocentricity of childhood. Learning more about horses in general, and her horse Honey in particular, helps her to also learn more about the people around her. She learns to look behind their words, to see where they’re coming from. There are plenty of horsey details for the horse-mad reader, but plenty also for those interested in realistic fiction for the transitioning-to-teen agegroup. Recommended for upper-primary readers.

Horse Mad Whispers (Horse Mad S.)

Horse Mad Whispers , Kathy Helidoniotis
Angus & Robertson 2010
ISBN: 9780732289997

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

This title can be purchased online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

The Pony Patch Collection, by Bernadette Kelly

The most important thing is not to leave before your pony has learnt the day’s lesson. Today’s lesson was that I was in charge.

Norton is a pony with attitude. He likes eating and playing games, but he doesn’t like listening to his owner, Molly. Nonetheless, Molly loves Norton, and she thinks he’s the most perfect pony in the world.

Previously published as four separate junior fiction titles, The Pony Patch Collection is a four-in-one bindup with the same great humorous storylines, comic black and white illustrations and easy to read text. The pink cover with foil embellishments make for a pretty package, sure to delight young readers.

The Pony Patch Collection (Pony Patch)

The Pony Patch Collection, by Bernadette Kelly
black dog, 2009

This book can be purchased online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.