Saturday, November 1, 2014

Mending Horses

Barker, P.  Mending Horses.   Holiday House  2014  309p  $17.95  ISBN 978-0-8234-2948-6     ms/hs  Historical fiction  VG-BN

This is the sequel to A Difficult Boy, but it also stands well on its own.  Daniel, an Irish immigrant, has been released from his indenture and is on his way with his beloved horse Ivy.  To the farmers of Massachusetts, an Irish boy with a horse like Ivy must be a thief.  After some time in jail, Daniel is taken under the wing of the peddler, Jonathan.  He travels with the peddler and an orphan named Billy, who sings like an angel.  The trio ends up traveling with a circus.  Daniel has a way with horses, using love and praise rather than punishment as an incentive.  He takes over the show ponies and is working to develop a performance.  Trouble follows the three as they travel.  It turns out that Billy, who is really a girl, was sold to the peddler by her father.  Her father sees her perform and tries to get her back.  Interspersed throughout the novel are chapters about Billy’s family.  These help the reader understand her decision at the end of the story.
This is an exciting read.  It paints a good picture of life in New England in the late 1830’s and the life and attitudes surrounding Irish immigrants.  The themes of the book are the way that both animals and people respond to love and gentleness, and the true meaning of family.    

Summary: This is the sequel to A Difficult Boy, but it also stands alone very well.  Daniel joins with the peddler Jonathan, who is traveling with a young boy named Billy.  They join up with a traveling circus but their pasts follow them, which causes problems.  Middle to high school.             

New England-Fiction, Circuses-Fiction                 --Joan Theal     

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