Friday, September 20, 2013

Heather Takes The Reins (1996)

Heather Takes The Reins
Sheri Cooper Sinykin
Illustrators: Richard Lauter (cover); Ed Tadiello (illustrations); Rich Grote (spot illustrations)
1996, Scholastic, Inc.
Series: Magic Attic Club

A series about four best friends - Heather, Alison, Keisha, and Megan - who find a golden key that unlocks a neighbor's attic and allows them access to a magic trunk.  The clothes they find in the trunk transport them - separately and together - to other places, and adventures.

Heather's confidence is shot after a disastrous first try at Academic Bowl.  Dispirited, she heads to the attic for an adventure to boost her mood.  She chooses a riding outfit and finds herself in a stable, with a sad bay horse named Adagio who isn't good at jumping.  Happily, he is good at dressage.

The central conceit of the attic adventures is that the girls get to experience their magical visits to other lives with all the necessary specialized knowledge.  So Heather knows how to ride and in one day goes from her first ride to winning a kur - a musical freestyle in dressage.  With only a background watching National Velvet to draw on.  Which is why magical adventures rock.

This is a short book, heavily illustrated and with writing that at best shows promise - but generally isn't trying too hard.  Maybe understandably, as this is part of a gimmicky series, but it's disappointing to have a line like:

At last, as if he were doing her a great favor, he accepted the treat and turned his head away. His teeth crunched noisily as he watched Heather from the corner of his eye.

It starts well, with a wry note that feels true, but falls apart as the crunching goes astray - the treat, surely, is doing the crunching, not the teeth - and the oddness of a horse (with virtually 360 vision) looking out the corner of its eye.

The books seem to have been accompanied by a set of dolls - the large sort, like the American Girl dolls - and I'm not sure which came first.  It's likely the books were marketing tie-ins with the dolls.

Sinykin's Magic Attic Club books
Fantastic Fiction list of the series