Thursday, April 15, 2010

Ride The Wild Storm (1969)

Ride The Wild Storm

Marjorie Reynolds, il. Lorence F. Bjorklund

1969, The Macmillan Company

"Every time he gives a little cough, you rush to him as if he were dying."

12-year-old David Lang is frozen in indecisive nervousness between his impatient father and his sickly mother. His father rages at his mother's coddling, and his mother weeps at his father's brusqueness, and David basically tries to cut off the sound of their twin whining while dreaming of horses, but he's a worried kid. Worried about his parents, who are talking divorce, worried about his asthma, worried about being shunted off to Nantucket as a paid guest of a local family for the summer, worried about his mother's bronchitis and his father's blatant dissatisfaction.

On Nantucket, the Macy family startles and confuses David, who's not used to the freedom to come and go without adult scruntiny - or to the blithe assumption that everything's fine unless you're actually bleeding. The tightly wound kid begins to relax a little, but what really kick starts his change is the mare Salty. The Macys agreed to care for the grey mare and sell her for her owners, who have moved off the island, but in the meantime David can ride her. And the tense, frantically worried David seems to loosen up almost the moment he meets the horse.

"Let's ride bareback," he said, although he had never done such a thing in his life.

With Bill Macy and his pony Pumpkin for company, David and Salty explore Nantucket. David, experiencing childhood freedom of movement for the first time in his life, thrills to every adventure, from getting lost in a fog to rescuing stranded swimmers. Bill, more prosaic, reminds him that Salty, the key to their shared transportation, will be sold sooner or later.

Very much a boy adventure, with the focus being on how Salty gives David freedom and autonomy. There is much less fascination with the horse as a beautiful animal or to the care of the horse than in the typical horse book starring a girl. David dearly loves Salty, and there are passages where he reflects on her beauty or gentleness, but it is an emphatically male POV. In most horse stories, a girl rescues a horse; here, a horse rescues a boy.

Reynolds had a few quirks which made her books a bit aggravating - an obsession with fat kids, a tendency to portray women as either sturdy and contented second fiddles or as weak ciphers (with men as strong, sensible alpha males) and some unlikely language - has any 12-year-old boy after 1900 really uttered the word "shall" in a casual conversation? The language itself is slightly stilted; it's clear and readable, but a little simple for the presumed audience.

As opposed to that is her depiction of a wonderful childhood summer running free across a unique island, galloping bareback on the beach, rescuing hapless people and becoming strong and confident. She vividly portrays a sense of a summer idyll on horseback, and Bjorklund's soft, dreamy art complements her style.


The Cabin On Ghostly Pond

A Horse Called Mystery

Sire Unknown

Dark Horse Barnaby

Keep A Silver Dollar

Ride The Wild Storm


Nantuckett, Massachusetts

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