Tiffin’s debut for young readers, based on a true story, depicts a devastating act of God seen through the eyes of a beautiful, vulnerable horse.
On May 24, 2011, a powerful tornado wreaked havoc for 75 miles in rural Oklahoma. It killed 10 people and many animals. A horse named Penny relates her terrific ordeal, miraculous survival and long road to recovery. Things begin peacefully as Penny munches sweet grass in her pasture. Storm clouds arrive, and low rumbles in the distance bring a sudden sideways rain and a tremendous wind that sends her spinning through the air with all kinds of debris—and a flying donkey. Her master’s house and farm destroyed, Penny is rescued by “the trailer people” from Ears Are Up Farm. A vet tends to Penny’s wounded rump—struck by a 2-by-6 board—and the various, troubling splinters in her abdomen, before she returns to the farm to recover and await more surgeries. While recuperating, Penny meets Lucky, a Peruvian horse; Phoebe, a “Yorkshire poodle” who likes to tussle with skunks; Cheyenne, a shy, table-scrap–thieving border collie; and Roxanna Montana, a tough corgi who likes to herd Penny around the pasture. Despite her constant pain and surgeries and the knowledge that she’s too “spooky” to ride again, Penny enjoys her new friends on her adoptive farm. Divided into three parts, Tiffin’s chapter book takes a moment to explain to young people what tornadoes are and why they’re so destructive. It also delves into the dangerous condition of colic, which can kill a horse. While some scenes and photographs in the book might be disturbing to younger readers, it seems like the perfect primer for kids looking to be veterinarians or who are working with horses. Tiffin brings whimsy to his story by telling it from Penny’s point of view, but there’s also harsh reality and unexpected tragedy in the pages of this slim volume. Despite a sad ending, Tiffin writes, “Even though the tornado has been very destructive and traumatic to everyone, nature continues to surprise and even to inspire us.”
A tale of endurance and grief for unsqueamish children, told in an unusual way.