In the unforgiving terrain of eastern Oregon in the first decade of the 20th century, 12-year-old John Nolan (known to his...



In the unforgiving terrain of eastern Oregon in the first decade of the 20th century, 12-year-old John Nolan (known to his family as "Wart") has been given a difficult, maybe even impossible job by his father. Because his mother is about to give birth, making it impossible for Wart's father to leave the family farm, it is up to Wart to find a group of runaway horses led by the temperamental and headstrong Ol' Rosie. Wart's father, gruff and uncommunicative, expects a great deal from his oldest son, leaving Wart feeling that whatever he does isn't good enough. Wart sets off before dawn and spends the day scouring the area around the farm, but with no luck. The next day, with his father's imaginary voice alternately chiding and encouraging him, Wart, amazingly, does manage to find the horses and get them home, but not before Ol' Rosie has taken on a cougar and killed it, and then bolted for her freedom, a freedom that Wart doesn't begrudge her. After Wart's dangerous expedition, he is beginning to see things differently. "I've always thought of Pa as a real big man. . . . Hard as the rimrocks, strong as the biggest horse. But now all at once I saw that he isn't all that tall. . . . Maybe he isn't that hard, either, or that strong. . . ." Intermittently interesting, but generally slow-moving, despite the adventurous nature of Wart's journey, this novel all too deliberately sets out to show that this experience is a life-changing, fear-conquering, coming-of-age event for Wart. At least Wart offers a dissenting point of view to the hundreds of children's books that sing the praises of that oh-so-noble beast, the horse. Wart doesn't like them. "You don't get a whole lot of sympathy from a horse. A horse will kick you, and then when you're lying there on the ground—in a pile of manure—he will walk on you before you can get up." Not as powerful as Moeri's earlier Save Queen of Sheba (1981) or as action-packed as Gary Paulsen's The Haymeadow (1992), nevertheless this will appeal to readers who've enjoyed both. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2001

ISBN: 1442402024

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2000

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