Friday, September 26, 2008

Friday Book Review - Firehorse

Christmas is coming - wouldn't someone you know love a horse book?

I've read a LOT of horse books over the years, and there always seem to be new ones out there. Since I now have a thirteen-year-old (albeit one who isn't particularly horse-mad), I thought I'd take a few minutes on Fridays to profile one horse book that I think might appeal to the thirteen-year-old girl in all of us. (Well, I liked them, anyway!)

Firehorse by Diane Lee Wilson
Fifteen year-old Rachel is growing up in a man's world. When her family abruptly moves to Boston, Rachel's beloved horse Peaches is sold without ceremony, and Rachel is told she will become a proper young lady. Bereft, in a strange city with no friends, Rachel pines for home and Peaches.
Boston in 1872 is a city with its own problems. Built mostly of wood, it has relatively few fire departments. During that long hot summer, a firebug strikes repeatedly and at random, terrorizing residents, who fear their neighborhoods will be the arsonist's next target. When a mysterious illness strikes the city's work horses, and then the firehorses, too, begin falling sick and dying, disaster looms.

Following a horrific fire in which a number of horses are killed, Rachel's brother is given the care of a badly burned firehorse, the Governor's Girl. Assisting with the mare's care, Rachel finds her calling: she will become a veterinarian. Rachel's father, however, is a man typical of the times: convinced women must be protected and managed. Even when Rachel finds lukewarm support for her goal from the kindly vet caring for Governor's Girl, she still faces the stigma of impropriety and indecency for wanting to do a "man's" work.

Wilson's characters stand on their own, from Rachel's feisty grandmother, to cheerful James and browbeaten Mrs. Selby. Careful research fleshes out the story, and Wilson's love of and familiarity with horses shines through. A great book for horse lovers, and also a good book to accompany an introduction to the suffrage movement. Even if you aren't usually a historical fiction fan - I'm often not - this was a good read.
The horse detail in this book is not only excellent, the author's note mentions that Wilson, a horse owner & rider herself, went so far as to seek out and ride a large breed sporthorse (can't recall which, though) so that she could bring some authenticity to Rachel's careening gallop through the Boston streets on the Girl.

Firehorse is a 2008 Middle School YARP selection for SD.


Anonymous said...

I enjoyed your book commentary. Sounds like a book to look up.

fssunnysd said...