A middle school girl reluctantly experiences the therapeutic power of horses during a summer at Quartz Creek Ranch.
When Paley Dixon’s parents abruptly moved the family from LA to Denver just before the start of her sixth-grade year, Paley had trouble making friends and instead retreated into all-night video gaming. Now her parents have stuck her for six weeks of the summer on a ranch full of kids with troubled pasts—and no internet. Paley, who along with another camper and a trainer is black, is assigned a beautiful horse named Prince but lacks the self-confidence to lead him, let alone ride him. While she grows to like some of the other campers—there are only five—others send her further into her shell. The owners of the neighboring ranch present some stereotypical conflict, calling the campers “delinquents.” (None of them has done anything particularly terrible.) A more unusual dilemma comes when the campers find a fossilized dinosaur skeleton and must work together to protect it from harm. This is series fiction, but it’s a step above the usual breathless horsey fare, with well-drawn characters and realistic horse situations. Most notably, they’re not all white or girls! Fearful, white Hanna, a girl who copes with her overcritical parents by stealing, is the featured protagonist among a different but similarly diverse group of campers in the simultaneously publishing Shy Girl & Shy Guy.
A good book to hand out to horse-crazy kids. (Fiction. 8-12)