Eckard, who volunteers with homeless animals, describes a close-knit community devoted to horses’ wellbeing. The writing’s sentimental bent matches the novel’s dare-to-dream-of-greatness elementary grade genre, raising tension, evoking tears, and rewarding heroes at all the right moments. An abrupt cliffhanger ending will either exasperate readers or make them crave the sequel. Gracie is a wholesome and upbeat role model, but her submissiveness lacks nuance; when she at last shows some assertiveness the narration labels it as “sneaky and underhanded,” a point readers might debate. Regardless, readers will appreciate her intelligence, admirable sportsmanship, and faithfulness.
Endurance riding, which requires harmony between horse and rider, gives Eckard the opportunity to share numerous life lessons. Especially potent is the central theme: to complete any race is a victory, regardless of placement. Eckard juxtaposes the abuse and disposal of unwanted horses—never made graphic—beside ideal animal care to inspire activism in her audiences. Most enjoyable are the specific sport techniques she details, as well as the delightful imaginings of horses’ conversations. Phylicia Mann’s skillful, black-and-white illustrations complement pivotal scenes. Gracie and Gallant’s indomitable love and integrity are the stuff of legends, sure to enchant horse lovers.
Takeaway: An exciting horse drama with a contagious passion for endurance riding that young readers and horse enthusiasts will love.
Great for fans of: Enid Bagnold’s National Velvet, Valerie Tripp’s Love and Loyalty: A Felicity Classic.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A