Friday, February 6, 2009

Lynn Hall
1981, Charles Scribner's Sons

Paulo Camacho is a young boy whose grandfather Diego raises Paso Fino horses on a farm in Puerto Rico. Though mares are seen as unfit mounts for men, Paulo adores the broodmare Twenty over any of the restless stallions until she gives birth to a beautiful bay foal. The colt Danza becomes the love of Paulo's life. His growing confidence smoothes out family discord, and Paulo slowly grows closer to his hard grandfather until the day the young stallion founders.

Here I must say that the description of founder's effects rank right up there in the crowded halls of stomach-churning animal torture in fiction.

Protruding from the bottom of the leg was a stump of tissue oozing blood and encasing the denuded inner bones of Danza's foot.

You have to have a strong stomach to read much horse and dog lit, but I distinctly recall being unable to finish this particular book for a long time as a kid.

Around this time, the horse-loving American colonel that's been hanging around trying to buy a stallion off Diego - who will sell mares but refuses to sell a stallion to an American because he's bitter that his sons all abandoned Puerto Rico for America's promise - turns up and makes a bargain with Diego. He'll take the horse back to his Louisiana farm and try to save him; if he succeeds, he'll keep him for a breeding season as a leasee, and then send him home. Diego agrees, even though he's unhappy that Paulo goes along.

In America, Paulo thrives under the warm praise of the colonel, so unlike his grandfather's silent refusal to encourage, and Danza struggles back to health. Problems arise as time passes and no mention is made of Danza's return to Puerto Rico - and when an abusive trainer is brought in to produce ribbons for Danza and the colonel.

Similar to most of Hall's books, but somehow less memorable. The differences are many - semi-tropical Puerto Rico and Louisiana instead of the Midwest, a boy hero instead of a girl - but many of the elements are the same as previous books. A passionate love of a child for an animal, the animal's growth and training, the child's disillusionment and acceptance of human complexity. Unusually for Hall's books, however, her hero never reaches the same kind of acceptance of his tarnished friend the colonel that her female heroes regularly reach about disappointing mentors and friends. There is more of the sense of right and wrong here than in most Hall books, which is odd considering that the colonel, for all his weakness and shadiness, does a spectacular good deed when he rescues Danza from the lingering death Diego has left him to suffer.

Horse Show
Missing Daddy - a father is MIA
My Parents Aren't So Bad, After All
Sibling Jealousy

Other Books by Author (horse)
Flying Changes
The Mystery Of Pony Hollow (aka The Ghost Pony)
The Mystery Of The Phantom Pony (aka The Mystery of Plum Park Pony)
Tin Can Tucker
Ride A Dark Horse
A Horse Called Dragon (aka Wild Mustang)
New Day For Dragon
Dragon's Delight
Dragon Defiant
The Something-Special Horse
Megan's Mare (aka The Problem Pony)
Ride A Wild Dream
The Boy In The Off-White Hat
The Horse Trader
Fair Maiden
The Whispered Horse
Mrs. Portree's Pony
Captain: Canada's Flying Pony (comic)
Tazo And Me (nonfiction)

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