Friday, December 30, 2016

Book Review: Mary's Song

Mary’s Song, Book One of the Dream Horse Adventures, by Susan Count is a charming story sure to delight young readers and animal (especially horse) lovers. Young Mary is disabled and life offers very little outlet for her creativity and intelligence. She is a very talented artist and loves horses. Her doting and overprotective widower father spends a lot of time and money on various therapies to try to get Mary back on her feet, walking, running, and leading a normal life. Mary has resigned herself somewhat to life in a wheelchair until the day she meets her neighbour Laura (also twelve), and finds out about the lame foal she had seen hobbling around on the next-door property. Laura couldn’t be more different, but the girls strike up a firm friendship. Then Mary learns that Illusion, the lame little foal, is set to be euthanized because of her club foot, and because it’s not considered worth the time and money to save the little horse. Laura and Mary persuade Laura’s parents to give a six-week stay of execution to enable them to raise the money for Illusion’s very expensive operation. Can they raise enough money in time to save Illusion, and will Mary ever walk again?

There is so much more to this book than just the heartrending story of saving Illusion.  The healing of both horse and young girl finds a wonderful theme in their parallel stories. The backdrop is the 1950s, which casts a completely different light on what kids would be doing, how they would behave, think, and entertain themselves. I found it a refreshing trip back in time, back to when things were perhaps simpler in many ways, but harder in that medicine and science still had some developments to achieve.

There are excellent themes for young readers, and the main one being a love of horses gives readers an idea of various aspects of riding, training, breeding and competing with horses, but without shoving facts down the reader’s throat. The wonderful and strong theme of love and friendship continues throughout, with love of family, not forgetting those once loved who have passed on, discovering new love when Mary’s dad meets someone special, and forging bonds of friendship with like-minded people.

Although there is a Christian theme, I found the author wove it into the story very well, again without overdoing it. That and the concept of faith, not only spiritual faith, but faith in oneself and others comes to the fore. Finally, the idea that a disabled person is not a broken person is very well handled. Interspersed is the idea that less able-bodied people can also achieve as much in their own way as an able-bodied person. Last but not least, I liked how much emphasis the author put on the theme of books, the joy found within the pages of old favourites and treasured books, the pleasure in reading, and indeed the importance of books.

This is an enchanting and moving story in so many ways, and young (and older) readers who are sure to enjoy it will also be delighted to know that the story continues. As the author says, “Saddle up and ride along!”

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