When her dad is arrested for embezzlement, life changes abruptly for 12-year-old Lizzie and her mother.
Their home repossessed, they are forced into a shelter for homeless families. Lizzie’s mother quickly finds work, while Lizzie spends most of the summer silently watching, sketching, and writing poems about the ponies at a teaching stable near the shelter. When a frightened, unbroken young pony arrives, Lizzie feels an instant connection and vows to do whatever it takes to make him hers. At this point, readers might think they know where the story’s going, but they don’t. Lizzie begins working at the barn in exchange for lessons and gradually comes out of her self-imposed isolation, emerging as strong, determined, and empathetic, but the horses are not the solution: Lizzie is. She relates the story of her rough transition from innocence to experience in an emotional yet measured first-person. Steveson’s nuanced portrayals of the many ways families can be in crisis and her unflinching honesty toward her characters elevate this book into something unexpectedly full of grace. They are always people who exist independently of their problems, and that’s a rare and beautiful thing. Lizzie and her family are white, while some important secondary characters are black and Latinx.
Well done. (Fiction. 8-14)