In this novella for middle-grade readers, a girl and her horse are threatened by wildfire.
Olivia, called Livy, has spent the summer working on the Bar S Ranch in Montana, which caters to city tourists. Already an experienced hand, Livy, about 11, has worked hard and often independently for Bar S: she “guided groups to campsites, resupplied camps, herded strays, searched for lost hikers, and occasionally helped with the shoeing and in the cookhouse.” She likes the Atkinsons, the ranch owners whom most call Ma and Pa, and Don, a Sioux who started off as the Atkinsons’ stock hand and is now a trusted family confidant. All three are kind and nurturing, despite worrying over the ranch’s financial troubles. Pa calls Livy in for a last chore before she returns home: a two-day ride out to the base camp to retrieve a radio for repair. Livy will need to take a backwoods route because of wildfire in the area—but she’s warned to stay off federal land and the old suspension bridge. A long solo ride over rugged ground sounds like the perfect end to her summer, and Livy agrees eagerly. She and Itchy, her favorite mount, get a good start on the trail, but the wildfire changes direction—and the only way forward for Itchy and Livy is across the suspension bridge. Can Livy save the day, herself, Itchy, and the ranch? Dahl (Olivia’s Story: Protector of the Realm, 2016, etc.) writes a story of resourcefulness, intelligence, courage, and luck that has great appeal, especially for girls who’d like to see themselves as rescuers, not the rescued. The plot moves swiftly with some exciting scenes of danger and escape. The book has faults: at 68 pages, it’s skimpy and can be vague on details (like Livy’s last name, age, or home city); and some elements, such as adults eager to share wealth with Livy, perhaps betray the book’s origins in tales told to please a granddaughter. And Don is a bit of a Native American stereotype.
A pleasing fantasy, especially for tween girls who love horses.