Drawing on his own lifelong straggle with rheumatoid arthritis, one of Australia's finest authors presents a moving fictional account of one young teen-ager's experiences in learning to live with that painful, crippling disease. Jodie is a champion rider whose dearest friend is her horse, Monarch. No complainer, she at first assumes that the excruciating new pains in her joints are the result of the rigors of competition--and so do her parents and the local doctor. Only after weeks of agony is her condition diagnosed, and even then school chums and teachers are less than sympathetic with her invisible ailment. Her parents consider selling Monarch; fortunately, a wise doctor defends his role in Jodie's emotional well-being--since it's saving Monarch during the catastrophic 1983 bushfire (""Ash Wednesday"") that also saves Jodie's own life. More case study than novel, though Thiele's account is vividly authentic, and he builds skillfully toward Jodie's heroic effort in the dramatic conclusion by slipping the reader information about Jodie's, and her wheelchair's, capabilities. It's too bad the publisher was less careful with the jacket painting, which contains at least three errors (including Monarch's color). Well written, informative, and (briefly, at the end) exciting.