Thursday, March 11, 2010

Horseback Summer (1990)

Horseback Summer

Virginia Vail, il. Daniel Bode

1990, Troll Associates

They'd been planning their summer at Webster's Country Horse Camp for almost an entire year. It hardly seemed possible that in just two days, their dream would come true. And one of the best parts about going to Webster's was that they were going together.

Except they're not. 13-year-old Emily Jordan has to go alone when her pal Judy breaks a leg the day before they leave. Emily panics, having been the follower of their tight little friendship, but bites the bullet and goes it alone. She's not alone long, quickly becoming enmeshed in a frenemies relationship with snooty fellow camper Caroline Lescaux. Their main bone of contention is the palomino Joker, who both girls passionately covet.

Cute, bright, lightly written series book without much depth or ambition. The mildly dated details are fun.

Libby dropped to her knees and opened her trunk, pulling out several rolled up posters. She unfurled one, revealing a life-sized picture of Michael J. Fox.

If you figure that the book was probably written in 1989, the same year his popular NBC sitcom Family Ties ended and the second sequel to his equally popular teen flick Back To The Future was released, that almost makes sense. Probably not to anyone who doesn't remember the USSR, but to we increasingly decrepit folk, yes.

Back to horses. Most of the book is a standard kids-dealing-with-other-kids-at-camp plot. There is very limited horse focus, and most of that is fairly simplistic and uninspiring.

Emily tried to remember everything she'd learned at The Barn. She glanced down at her hands, hoping she was holding the reins properly. She could feel the slight pressure of Joker's mouth. He wasn't pulling or struggling to take a faster pace. With her hands separated evenly across his withers, she concentrated on keeping her legs close without undue pressure, heels down and slightly out.

It's the first installment in the six-book Horse Crazy series, which takes place entirely at the Webster camp. The writing is unambitious.

Oh, that palomino! The late-afternoon sun gleamed on his golden coat and made his silver-white mane and tail shine like clouds in a summer sky. The palomino was the most beautiful horse Emily had ever seen.

Any writing is work, and series books for children have their place in the world. I just think you shouldn't be able to sense that they received little time or effort from their creator, which is the definite impression this book leaves.

About the author

Virginia Vail is a pseudonym. Vail wrote many books for tweens (although, back before that particular term was coined) including the Animal Inn series.


The Whitebrook Farm blog has a review of Vail's 1992 book The Palomino here

Other Books - horse related

Horse Crazy series

Happy Trails

Good Sports

Surprise, Surprise!

Horse Play
Riding Home

Animal Inn series

Gift Horse

Pony Club series


If Wishes Were Horses

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