#554 – Wind Dancer by Chris Platt

wind dancer.

Wind Dancer

by Chris Platt

Peachtree Publisher        4/01/2014

978-1-56145-736-6

Age 8 to 12          138 pages

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“Ali used to love horses. But that was before the accident, when she was injured and her pony died.

“Before her brother Danny joined the military.

“Before everything changed.

“Now Danny has returned from Afghanistan. He is learning to walk with the prosthetic that has replaced one of his legs, but he can’t seem to find a way to reconnect with family and friends. Withdrawn and quick to anger, Danny suffers from terrible nightmares and frightening mood changes.

“When Ali realizes that an elderly neighbor has been neglecting her horses, she decides she has to act. Can Ali rise above her painful memories and love a horse again? And can Wind Dancer, also injured and traumatized, help Danny rediscover meaning in his life?”

 Opening

“Something’s wrong.” Ali flattened her nose against the school bus window, trying to catch sight of the horses.”

The Story

Thirteen-year-old Ali worries. She worries about her brother, Danny, home from Afghanistan with one leg missing and suffering from PTSD. She worries about a neighbor’s horses, severely neglected, yet no one has helped them. Ali hurts. She hurts from the pain of losing her pony to a tragic accident, and she hurts from losing her brother to a war. Ali also cares. She cares about the neglected horses and she cares about Danny. Ali wants to help, but is not sure what to do for either the horses or her brother. All this worry and pain hits young Ali every day.

One day, on the bus ride home from school, the girls see Animal Control at the neighbor’s property. To the girls’ amazement and delight, authorities are finally taking the horses. The next day, the damaged horses are in Ali’s barn, and she is to care for them. It is part punishment and part because Ali knows horses better than most. Ali doubts she can do the job. Danny sneaks out to see the horses and connects with Wind Dancer, but makes a couple of near fatal mistakes. Misty takes to the rehab plan almost immediately, but Wind Dancer barely eats and may be rejecting the plan. Danny understands the horse and Wind Dancer takes to him, the only person the horse responds to, much to Ali’s disappointment and jealousy.

Then one night, Wind Dancer trots off into the desert, leaving Misty whining for his return. The desert is harsh and the horse is frail. One misstep and the coyotes will find a meal. Ali decides she is going out looking for Wind Dancer and changes into her riding gear. Will the horse survive the horribly hot desert heat?  Can he be brought back and successfully complete his rehabilitation? Or, will Ali feel the pain of losing another horse?

Review

Ali’s story will move you. Anyone with a wounded warrior will understand Danny and the difficulties on the family his war-related injuries cause. Ali had a good brother, a fun-loving brother, a brother who cared about her. Now she has none of those. How does she help Danny when Danny often scares her? When he refuses help and denies he has a problem? The reader will worry right alongside Ali. I read Wind Dancer three days ago and the characters are still running around in my head.

Then there are the horses, neglected, starving to death, and receiving no help. Even if you are not fond of horses, their story will move you. What the horses endure, what they suffer, is what hundreds of thousands of dogs and cats endure and suffer daily. Regardless of the animal, the abuse and neglect is difficult to understand, to look at, and yes, to help. You cannot just take an animal away, as Ali and the neighbors find out. In most instances, the animal must become extremely frail before authorities will step in. Once they do, who cares for the animal? Ali finds this responsibility on her shoulders.

Wind Dancer is well-written, with perfect punctuation and editing. The story is tight, stays on point. Wind Dancer is a page-turner. I read it in one morning, straight through, not because this is how I read a book, but because the story wouldn’t release me. Two damaged horses and one damaged boy. I needed to know how they would fare. Understanding PTSD, I was curious as to how the author would portray Danny, his symptoms, and his moment of clarity.

Would someone be able to recognize that Danny had PTSD before the story revealed this? Yep, I could. Ms. Pratt did her research. Danny exhibits the symptoms and the mental attitude of an unhealed person with PTSD. As painful as the character of Danny is to read, and as hard as this must have been to write, he is a case model for PTSD.  Treatment can be difficult, but help is available. Ms. Pratt lists resources both inside the story and at the end of it. The ending may seem simplistic and convenient, but Danny’s moment of clarity, when he realizes he has a problem and needs help, is genuine.

Ali loves horses, but since the accident that broke her arm and killed her pony, she has refused to ride. Her accident, what exactly happened, and how this effected Ali’s relationship with Danny—and his joining the military afterward—comes out in bits and pieces. Exactly why Ali refuses to get on a horse, when she loves them and harbors no resentment or fear, lacks complete explanation. One can’t help but think something important is missing. The story flows fine without this side story, so if not completely explained, please, leave it out.

Despite the story of Danny ending a bit too neatly, I enjoyed the story. The horses and their situation is realistic and handled with care. Wind Dancer deals with the difficult subjects of animal abuse and mental health, specifically PTSD. Ms. Pratt deals with each subject responsibly, making Wind Dancer a novel appropriate for the middle grade. I enjoyed this novel. Kids who love animals, horses in particular, will also love Wind Dancer.

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WIND DANCER. Text copyright © 2014 by Chris Platt. Published by Peachtree Publishers, Atlanta, GA.

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Learn more about Wind Dancer HERE.

Purchase your copy of Wind Dancer at AmazonB&NBook DepositoryPeachtreeyour local bookstore.

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Meet the author, Chris Platt, at her website:  www.chrisplattbooks.com

Check out other Peachtree hits at the publisher’s website:  www.peachtree-online.com

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Also by Chris Platt

Moon Shadow

Moon Shadow

Willow King

Willow King

Race the Wind!

Race the Wind!

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Peachtree Book Blog Tour

Wind Dancer

Please read other opinions at:

Blue Owl

Sally’s Bookshelf 

Chat with Vera

Horse Book Reviews

and tomorrow at Geo Librarian

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16 thoughts on “#554 – Wind Dancer by Chris Platt

  1. This sounds like a great story with a strong theme. Being a horse person and having a few horse accidents myself, I totally understand the reasoning behind Ali’s reluctance to be around horses again. Horse people would understand this side story without too much explanation from the author. I like that the book brings awareness to neglected animals and their need for help. Great review, Sue.

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    • The neglected horses and the injured brother are the main story. Bringing in horses abused, well more neglected than abused, was key for me too. That sold me on the book because there are not enough stories about horses in these conditions and the people that help them. Stay safe, no more horse accidents. You are a loyal commentator and that places a high value on your typing fingers. Don’t injure your hands. Fall on your butt! 😀

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    • “Spirit” so sorry to hear you had horse accidents 😦 It can be so dangerous. I had an incident in which I’m lucky I DIDN’T have a bad fall, but fortunately, that worked out. For whatever reason, this time what came to mind was Bonnie in GONE WITH THE WIND 😦 sigh Careful, everyone! 😀

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  2. High praise, Sue! I have ALways loved horses. In fact, my grandfather owned a stable in the Bronx—yes, THE Bronx—only we rarely got to visit it 😦 This sounds like a wonderful story. I can tell you REALLY loved it! It immediately reminded me of the movie “The Horse Whisperer” 🙂 With a name like Wind Dancer, I’m thinking it’s a Native American tale possibly? Though you didn’t mention it, so I doubt it!

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    • No it’s not a Native Indian tale. It is actually a country tale about a pre-high school girl and her 20-year-old brother. It’s more about recovering from tragedy: Ali from her horse accident, Danny from his war injuries, and the horses from neglect and starvation.

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  3. Give me a horse book and I’m happy 🙂 This one sounds like a powerful story. And it looks like the author has written several other horse books. Great find for me and my daughter 🙂 Thanks for reviewing!

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    • Chris Platt has written several kids books and I believe they are a about horses. Even her author photo is with a horse. I hope you and your daughter enjoy this story.

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  4. Wow! This review did the trick for me. This one is going on my To Be Read list. The only horses I ever see are in Manhattan, I love a good horse story. Add in a damaged soldier and a girl who rises above and I’m hooked.

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