Saturday, November 21, 2009

Review: Horse Diaries: Bell's Star

Summary: Vermont, 1850s Bell’s Star is a brown Morgan colt with a white star and two white stockings. He was bred for hard work, yet he longs to run free with his human friend, Katie, on his back. But when Star helps rescue a runaway slave girl, his ideas about freedom may change forever. Here is Star’s story . . . in his own words. With exciting and knowledgeable text and lovely black-and-white art throughout—both by real horse owners—Horse Diaries are the perfect fit for all lovers of horses and history! -- Random House Kids

by Alison Hart and illustrated by Ruth Sanderson is a wonderful book for young girls, and especially those that have a love of horses. Booking Daughter thought she was a little too old for this book, and I have to agree; however, I think BELL'S STAR would be ideal for second through fourth graders. I think this story had many elements which will make it a hit with young girls!

As a mother, I have to say that I love when my daughter reads books that can also teach her something. The Horse Diary books are just perfect for this because they are actually historical fiction for the younger set. In BELL'S STAR, a young farm girl Katie and her horse Bell's Star discover and save a runaway slave girl. Both Katie and her horse attempt to protect the young slave girl from the slave catchers; and they eventually help her escape to Canada where she can live freely with her family.

The book is suspenseful and touching, and I think young girls are going to love this story. The book is written in first person through the voice of the horse BELL'S STAR. I think this narrative technique worked especially well in this story, and the horse definitely offered a unique perspective of the events. I think young readers will appreciate that the horse didn't understand many of the historical/political issues and still managed to do the "right" things.

In addition to the historical fiction aspect of the story, there is also a appendix in the back of the book which gives additional information about Morgan horses, life in Vermont in the 1950s, and slavery. I have to admit that I really learned a great deal from reading these sections, and I think they definitely enhanced the story. With all the historical lessons in BELL'S STAR, I think it would be a great book to use in the classroom as well!

BELL'S STAR is actually book 2 in the Horse Diary series, and I would like to read the other books in the series. The first book is called ELSKA and the third book is called KODA. You can actually read an excerpt of the KODA book in the back of BELL'S STAR. I thought it was interesting that all three books in the series were written by different authors (but they do have the same illustrator Ruth Sanderson.)

Ms. Hart has written many books for middle grade readers. Many of her books are horse-related, but Booking Daughter and I know her best for A MOLLY MYSTERY: A SPY ON THE HOME FRONT (an American Girl book) and The New Adventures of Mary-Kate and Ashley. Ms. Hart also has written SHADOW HORSE (a 2000 Mystery Writers of America Edgar Nominee for Best Juvenile Novel and a 2003-2004 Association for Indiana Media Educators Read-Aloud Books too Good to Miss) which is being re-released next spring. In addition, Ms. Hart has a new American Girl novel coming out which will be available in Fall 2010 -- Booking Daughter is anxiously awaiting this one.

Make sure you come back tomorrow because Ms. Hart will be stopping by with a guest post! Thanks to the author for sending me a copy of this book.


rhapsodyinbooks said...

I love the idea of historical fiction for the young set. This one sounds perfect for my niece, who is a horse maniac. Thanks for the review!

bermudaonion said...

I'm sure young girls would enjoy this, because they just seem to relate to horse stories - Marguerite Henry's books were all the rage when I was young.

carolsnotebook said...

My daughter has just never gotten into horses, which is pretty surprising, considering how much she loves animals.