A standout story with a strong heroine and an authentic voice.

CLIP-CLOP CHRONICLES

STORIES OF A GIRL AND HER HORSE ADVENTURES

A young girl doesn’t let setbacks keep her from following her passion for competitive horseback riding in this debut middle-grade novel.

Twelve-year-old Roz Stone dreams of someday making history by being the first African-American rider to win the International Federation for Equestrian Sports competition, which she calls the “Superbowl” of horseback riding. But first, she has to figure out a way to continue to pay for her riding lessons and prepare for a competition after losing her lawn-work clients thanks to a damaged riding mower. In this lively, first-person narrative, Roz’s challenges also include a wealthy, mean girl named Zoe (who’s a good rider but a bully); an injured ankle; and family members who feel that horseback riding isn’t an appropriate sport for African-Americans (“Nearly all of my cousins thought I was crazy,” the young girl says. “They told me that Black people didn’t ride horses”). Roz is undeterred, though, and her twin sister, Estelle, and her wise grandmother have her back. And although Roz is the only rider of color at her rural community’s riding school, she has a good friend and a mentor there for support and the historical success stories of African-American jockeys, polo players, and dressage and jumping champions for inspiration. Witherspoon-Cassanova has created a cast of believable characters, led by the spirited and thoughtful Roz, in a realistic world founded on the importance of family, faith, and strength of character. She also draws on her own firsthand riding experiences and her involvement with an equine therapy program. Roz’s enthusiasm is contagious, her ups and downs are relatable, and the lessons she learns are delivered without preachiness and feel organic to the story. The story also deftly keeps readers guessing about how it will all end. The only flaw in this otherwise sterling debut is a handful of distracting typos (such as “So I Mark was my person” and “I willing broke my promise”). Overall, though, this novel will resonate not only with horse-loving tweens, but with any young readers who are determined to march to their own drummers.

A standout story with a strong heroine and an authentic voice.

Pub Date: Feb. 24, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9986813-0-6

Page Count: 244

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Dec. 26, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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ABIYOYO RETURNS

The seemingly ageless Seeger brings back his renowned giant for another go in a tuneful tale that, like the art, is a bit sketchy, but chockful of worthy messages. Faced with yearly floods and droughts since they’ve cut down all their trees, the townsfolk decide to build a dam—but the project is stymied by a boulder that is too huge to move. Call on Abiyoyo, suggests the granddaughter of the man with the magic wand, then just “Zoop Zoop” him away again. But the rock that Abiyoyo obligingly flings aside smashes the wand. How to avoid Abiyoyo’s destruction now? Sing the monster to sleep, then make it a peaceful, tree-planting member of the community, of course. Seeger sums it up in a postscript: “every community must learn to manage its giants.” Hays, who illustrated the original (1986), creates colorful, if unfinished-looking, scenes featuring a notably multicultural human cast and a towering Cubist fantasy of a giant. The song, based on a Xhosa lullaby, still has that hard-to-resist sing-along potential, and the themes of waging peace, collective action, and the benefits of sound ecological practices are presented in ways that children will both appreciate and enjoy. (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-689-83271-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2001

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A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift.

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BECAUSE I HAD A TEACHER

A paean to teachers and their surrogates everywhere.

This gentle ode to a teacher’s skill at inspiring, encouraging, and being a role model is spoken, presumably, from a child’s viewpoint. However, the voice could equally be that of an adult, because who can’t look back upon teachers or other early mentors who gave of themselves and offered their pupils so much? Indeed, some of the self-aware, self-assured expressions herein seem perhaps more realistic as uttered from one who’s already grown. Alternatively, readers won’t fail to note that this small book, illustrated with gentle soy-ink drawings and featuring an adult-child bear duo engaged in various sedentary and lively pursuits, could just as easily be about human parent- (or grandparent-) child pairs: some of the softly colored illustrations depict scenarios that are more likely to occur within a home and/or other family-oriented setting. Makes sense: aren’t parents and other close family members children’s first teachers? This duality suggests that the book might be best shared one-on-one between a nostalgic adult and a child who’s developed some self-confidence, having learned a thing or two from a parent, grandparent, older relative, or classroom instructor.

A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-943200-08-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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