From the Brookmeade Young Riders series

It's time for the Dream Horse to die.

It is. The Dream Horse is an archetype distressingly common in children's literature, spawning awful books like this one for generations of obsessed little riders. Young teen Sarah Wagner is a Talented Horseless Rider who, through the interventions of an Amazingly Kind Adult, is gifted with a choice of four horses just off the track. The one she picks, a gelding of remarkable, valuable breeding who never raced because he is so poorly behaved under saddle (a fantastic choice for a kid!), is immediately found to have a reversible medical condition (somehow missed by the track vets) that will made him tractable. A real, honest teenager would at this point immediately return the horse for one of the others—his racing career is presumably restored, and since she's only owned the horse one day and never ridden him, he's the equal to her of the others. But no. This is a Dream Horse. Our Heroine must throw temper tantrums until she can keep the horse; the adults, instead of counseling her toward appropriate moral behavior, applaud her Loyalty and Perseverance. There's also a Poor Little Rich Girl, a Stalwart Friend, an Irascible Groom and a Token Boy Rider. Despite the liberal use of tropes, far too much of the prose is unnecessary, laborious detail. Worse, it's first in a series. (Fiction. 10-13) 


Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-57076-546-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Trafalgar Square

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2012

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

This fun romp of a girls’ sports story would make a highly watchable flick (and arguably already has, given its resemblance...


From the Roller Girls series

Roller derby and cheerleading are even farther apart than London and Liberty Heights, Ill.

After the end of her parents’ marriage, Annie decides to join her father in the United States. If all she had to do in the States was banter with her goofy dad while he sets up an English-style bakery/cafe, she’d be golden. The popular girls instantly hate her, and learning American high school slang is rough (although, oddly, the narration from Annie’s point of view mostly uses American rather than U.K. English). Her fabulous neighbor Lexie is an artist, an easy friend with an individual sense of style who represents a bright spot. But Annie also wants to join the cheerleading squad, and the social rules around high school popularity are more complicated than she expects. Can she stay friends with Lexie and be a cheerleader at the same time? More importantly, can she cheerlead while being a roller girl? For Annie’s discovered roller derby, and its joyful aesthetic fits in well with her own athleticism and love of punk music. The characters are lightly sketched, from the stereotypical mean cheerleaders to the friendly but undifferentiated skaters; this slim volume replaces character development with action-packed training montages.

This fun romp of a girls’ sports story would make a highly watchable flick (and arguably already has, given its resemblance to the 2009 film Whip It) . (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-62370-023-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Capstone Young Readers

Review Posted Online: April 24, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2013

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Narrator Olivia and her friends Delia, Mandy, Phoebe and Joey are Hubert C. Frost Middle School's “Marcies”—losers. Reigning...


In a high-concept approach to middle-school hierarchies, a group of unpopular eighth graders uses dog-training techniques to combat bullies.

Narrator Olivia and her friends Delia, Mandy, Phoebe and Joey are Hubert C. Frost Middle School's “Marcies”—losers. Reigning mean girl Brynne Shawnson and her cronies constantly target them with pranks and ridicule their acne, ill-fitting clothes, infected eyebrow piercing and other traits both real and invented. While helping her dog-trainer grandmother rehabilitate a grass-phobic Mexican Hairless, Olivia hatches her plan. She and her friends launch a three-stage training operation that involves distractions, rewards and ignoring negative behaviors. As the middle-school social order re-forms itself in both predictable and unpredictable ways, Olivia struggles with abandonment and shame about her mother, who has left home for a mental facility. Although the therapist Olivia sees is so ineffectual as to be off-putting rather than comic, Olivia's warm and charmingly self-deprecating narrative voice relates her feelings with a surprising and touching expressiveness. The comparison between dogs and people often feels apt, though it is occasionally carried too far—it's a bit disconcerting to hear Olivia liken her crush to a chocolate Lab, for example, and the notion that ignoring bullies' negative behavior will make them stop seems sadly optimistic.

Pub Date: Nov. 8, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-4231-3845-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Sept. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2011

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet