Sunday, December 6, 2009

A Horse For X.Y.Z.

A Horse For X.Y.Z.
Louise Moeri; Gail Owens, illustrator
1977, E.P. Dutton

After a week at camp, Solveig Nilsson is standing obediently if sullenly in line awaiting the bus to take her back to her boarding school when she impulsively decides to throw caution to the wind and break a few rules. Solveig's been yearning to ride the chestnut Quarter Horse Snake Dancer all week, but he's only been trusted to a few older campers. Her plan now is to slide off the bus, hide until it leaves, then take a quick ride before the bus driver realizes she's missing and returns for her. A few minor flaws in her plan - there's a reason Snake Dancer was ridden only by the more advanced riders, an emergency on her bus causes so much confusion that Solveig isn't missed, and men with guns turn up at the isolated camp to reclaim their stolen property - Snake Dancer.

Solveig isn't tremendously likeable, the horse is essentially a minor figure in what is really an adventure story, and the writing falls just on the wrong side of the line separating the distinct if sometimes irksome 1970's style of prosaic realism from the timeless flaw of pedestrian dullness. On the plus side, Solveig is very believable, the horse does show some personality and isn't just a plot mechanism, and the adventure is very thrilling for a child reader, particularly the terrifying ride at the beginning. And her struggles, both physically with Snake Dancer and mentally with her own fear, are compelling.

Snake Dancer - chestnut Quarter Horse

Paperback edition - Scholastic, 1980

This book seems to have had a number of covers. Apart from the above hardcover and the Scholastic paperback, I've seen at least two others online. The most attractive can be seen here, at Jane Badger Books.

Other books by Author
The Devil In Ol' Rosie (another horse story)
Star Mother's Youngest Child
First The Egg
Journey To The Treasure
The Girl Who Lived On The Ferris Wheel
Save Queen Of Sheba
The Forty-Third War
The Unicorn And The Plow
How The Rabbit Stole The Moon

About the Illustrator
Gail Owens was born in 1939, and has illustrated far too many books to be mentioned here. Another that feature horses is Stall Buddies by Penny Pollock.

du Grummond collection

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