Monday, August 9, 2010

Paint The Wind (2007)

I'm having some technical difficulties with my computer, which has quite reasonably refused to deal with my digital photo addiction until I give it more memory. So this review goes on sans cover image, which grieves me, but you can see the cover here.

Paint The Wind
Pam Munoz Ryan, il. Sterling Hundley (cover)
2007, Scholastic Press

"I have a grandfather and he lives with his brother and sister... but they're actually hillbillies with no education and they live like pigs in an uncivilized land. Oh, and they don't appreciate culture and are extremely crass and unsavory."

Maya, a squelched child, has lived most of her living memory with her father's mother in Pasadena. Her grandmother's grief and bitterness over losing her son early has led to the negative impression she's conveyed to Maya. When she dies, Maya is shipped off to Wyoming to live with her mother's long-forgotten family, the Limners.

She slowly turned in a circle and looked up at an endless and cavernous sky. There was far more heaven above her than there was earth below, and the horizon seemed worlds away. Without a white wall to define her boundaries, how would she ever know when she disappeared from someone's view?

Maya's learned to be silent and cunning under the autocratic rule of her grandmother; she flinches from the hearty, emotional welcome of the Limners, and lies fluidly to manipulate her circumstances. When she's sent off to a camp to spend time with her aunt Vi and spoiled cousin Payton, she employs her usual sly tactics to strike back after Payton throws a firecracker at her. Her tactics indirectly causes a horse to be hurt, and drives a wedge between Maya and Vi.

Slowly, things improve as Maya learns to ride and enjoy it, and learns about Artemisia, the mare her mother loved who was stolen away by a wild stallion. When Maya sees the chance to recapture the mare, she seizes it - and becomes involved in a natural disaster that could kill her.

The title is a fanciful expression of the allure of the wild horses and, no doubt, their threatened existence in reality. The title, cover art and comments about 'ghost horses' hint at a fantastic element which does not exist; the book therefore flirts with but never truly grasps hold at the supernatural. It is firmly in place, in love with Wyoming, and its heroine. The character of Maya is well done, but the supporting cast is under served and the relationships seem rushed. The initial segments set in Pasadena establish Maya strongly, but weaken and shorten the vital Wyoming sections.

Horse-wise, I have my reservations. The author is at pains to provide horsey details, and there is a great deal of horse information, including some convincing (if awfully quick) scenes of Maya learning to ride. But it doesn't feel as natural as the rest of the book. According to her website, Munoz Ryan hadn't been into horses until she began writing this book. She fell in love with riding, and her lesson horse Smokey is featured on her website.

Overall, I think it's a very high-quality work of children's fiction, but a not overly impressive horse book. And I actually don't mind. Maya is a subtle, interesting character, and her story is entirely sufficient.

Artemisia - brown and white pinto mare
Klee -
Wyeth - Artemisia's 2-year-old colt
Sargent - Palomino stallion
Russell - bay ranch gelding
Catlin - bay ranch gelding
Homer - bay ranch gelding
Audubon - dun ranch gelding
Seltzer - blue roan ranch gelding
Wilson - sorrel ranch gelding
Georgia - wild mare
Mary - 2-year-old wild palomino mare
Remington - black wild stallion with white blaze and stockings
Golly - dog

Author website
Scholastic interview
McBookWords - the artists who inspired the horse names above
Illustrator Sterling Hundley's website

Other horse books
Riding Freedom

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