#140 – The Island Horse by Susan Hughes

4.5 Stars

From Inside Jacket:  Ellie believes she will live in her little village on the coast of Scotia for always.  But when her father gets a job on Sable Island, she must say farewell to her beloved home and her mother’s final resting place.  Not even the idea of seeing wild horses that roam the island can ease the pain of leaving. 

And after arriving on the sandy, windswept crescent of island, Ellie feels adrift and alone . . . until one afternoon when she awakens on a dune to find herself looking into the curious eyes of a wild stallion.  Little by little, as the days pass, Ellie gets closer to the beautiful chocolate-colored horse.  Yet she soon discovers something that could take him away from his home, his herd and her. Ellie has lost so much already.  Will she lose her island horse, too?    

Ellie is a happy child, given she has recently lost her ma to a fatal illness.  She had returned to school, where she sees her friend Lizzie every day while walking to and from school.  Ellie lives in a little house she believes she will live in forever and ever.

Pa has been unemployed since giving up his good job on the docks, to spend time with his wife, those last precious months of her life.  Pa could not get his good paying job back at the docks, or anywhere else.  No one was hiring.  Then one day, Pa arrived home with a letter containing a job offer.

..“Ellie, we’ll be alright!  I have been offered a job.  A good job!”

The job takes Pa and Ellie to Sable Island, 100 miles off the coast of Halifax, Nova Scotia.  At the rescue station on Sable Island, Pa would help other stationed men rescue occupants of shipwrecks, off the island’s coast.  It is a dangerous job, on a non-habitable island, made of sand and marram grass.  There are wild horses, surviving by eating the deeply rooted grass and by using their hoof to dig for fresh water in the sand.

Ellie is not happy. She loves watching the wild horses, but nothing else.  Nothing.  No formal school exists, and no trees can grow, nor much plant life.  Yet, the people survived, saved countless lives, and, at least while Ellie was there, were nice, jovial people, who cared for one another.

Ellie loves horses.  She has become adept at drawing horses from all angles and wanted to see a wild horse, though she knew that was only a dream, living in her village.  Her dream became vividly real when a big, strong stallion approached.  A few days later, the stallion gently accepted an apple from Ellie’s out-stretched hand.

After that, Ellie  went to the same spot as often as she could and the stallion would appear.  They gazed into each other’s eyes, but Ellie thought better it best not to touch him.  She names him Orchid, her Ma’s favorite flower.  Where Orchid went, his little herd followed.  All seems too good to be true and like all good stories, something bad interrupts.  And so, it is with The Island Horse.  Ellie must save Orchid and his herd; she must, to save herself.  The question is . . . can she?

I enjoyed The Island Horse.  At first, there is small angst and that only raises minimal amounts for the better part of the book.  Life on the island is not and never will be home to Ellie.  She fights its pull every day, and it shows in her attitude and her behavior, especially to one possible friend her age.  Meanwhile, Pa is thrilled with his job, the island, and his new home at station two.

If you like horses even a teensiest bit, you will love The Island Horse.  If horses are okay, as they are for me, you’ll like this story. Should you not care less about horses, find another book—unless you like well-written stories, wonderful plot lines, that do not waver, exciting endings,  and a fairly fast read at 153 pages, not including interesting facts about Sable Island’s history.  The character’s are from the author’s imagination.

The rescue jobs, stations, shipwrecks and wild horses are all-true and seem well-researched.* I like how the author pre-shadows all that is to comes, if one pays close attention.  I did not try to figure anything out during my first read, and immensely enjoyed The Island Horse as it picked up in the second half.  On second reading, I caught a few, (possibly?) unintentional clues, which made me wonder and think, yet unable to guess correctly.

Illustrations appear on each chapter’s first page.  I  like each one.  The line drawings add flavor to the story.  I think those drawings also hint to what the chapter is about.   The deliciously descriptive text kept visions of the island in my head, still today.  Vividly detailed, it is easy to see much of the story, Sable Island and Orchid in particular.  Such characters deserve a new story.  If The Island Horse should become a series, stay here for more information.

*Not fact-checked, per usual.        **All photos, courtesy of Alicia Quist.

Please comment.  Comments are the gears that make the blogosphere move.  Without comments, we are solo islands drift nowhere.

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The Island Horse

Author:  Susan Hughes   website  
Illustrator: Alicia Quist   website
Publisher: Kids Can Press    website
Release Date:  March 1, 2012
ISBN:  978-1-55453-592-7
Number of Pages:  160
Ages:  7+
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6 thoughts on “#140 – The Island Horse by Susan Hughes

  1. Pingback: Now This is a BIG Deal! « Kid Lit Reviews

    • The neat thing is that this is based on what actually happened back in the 19th century, actually up until 1950, if I remember correctly. So it is an historical novel.

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