Book 1 in the Animal Rescues series tells the story of a home-schooled teen and the wild mustang she buys.
Fourteen-year-old Annie works at Top Tier Stable, an upscale barn in Colorado, and saves up her tips to buy a horse of her own. At the auction she attends with Jack, the stable manager, Jack bids on an unbroken 4-year-old mare to keep it from being acquired by the Butcher, a woman reputed to resell horses for dog food. Annie names the mare Poco and under Jack’s tutelage, learns to train her with kindness and trust. Meanwhile, she tries to ignore the jibes of the obnoxious Peggy, a girl about Annie’s age who boards an expensive horse at the stable. Jack tells Annie that Peggy has problems of her own, but Annie is disbelieving until she sees it for herself. When Peggy’s valuable thoroughbred goes missing, Annie and Jack begin to suspect foul play. Halls writes in a brisk, competent style, and Annie’s present-tense narration is straightforward. Themes of initiative and understanding are presented skillfully if fairly predictably. With the exception of an implausible decision near the end inserted for tension (why wait hours to check the surveillance footage after a valuable horse has been lost?), the story wraps up satisfyingly, with a bit of a twist regarding the Butcher.
Uncomplicated reading done well. (Fiction. 9-14)