Mary's Song: Dream Horse Adventures
By: Susan Count
Illustrated by: Ruth Sanderson
Publisher: Hastings Creations Group
Publication Date: October 2016
Reviewed by: Lynette Latzko
Mary’s Song, Book One of the Dream Horse Adventures series, is a delightful story about a twelve-year-old girl who is wheelchair-bound, caused by a virus that attacked her muscles when she was four. She lives with her protective father who is away from home often either on business or in constant search of a cure for Mary’s condition. She often dreams of owning her own horse and being able to ride wild and free. Unfortunately, she spends her time at home with no friends, sitting quietly near a neighbor's fence sketching the horses she sees grazing next door. Mary feels a strong pull towards a particular foal, but thinks there might be something terribly wrong with the young horse because she has spotted it limping on a few occasions.
One day as Mary is busy practicing her cursive penmanship with her tutor and dreaming about warhorses, a horse and buggy comes down the road stopping at her house. A girl the same age as Mary gets out of the buggy and introduces herself as Laura from the farm next door. Despite having different experiences and upbringings, Mary and Laura quickly become friends sharing their love of horses and secret buggy rides.
Together the two girls learn that the young horse who Mary took a liking to, named Illusion, on Laura’s farm is destined to be put down because of a club foot. While Laura seems to accept this prognosis as a fact of life on the farm, Mary is devastated and cannot understand why Illusion isn’t being given a second chance. She tries to convince the farm manager and Laura’s father to help the horse, but they are hesitant to take on such a big endeavor. Finally, after much thought and convincing, Laura’s father agrees to keep the horse for six weeks with one catch. He states that either the foal will get better on her own, or he’ll allow the horse to get a surgery that may help fix her lameness, but he expects Laura and Mary to come up with the money to pay for the surgery. But where are the two friends who share a love of horses and second chances going to get enough money to pay for an expensive operation in time?
Mary’s Song is a wonderfully encouraging story especially for young readers primarily because it has a multitude of positive messages throughout. One such strong example is the theme of perseverance despite adversity. Not only does Mary struggle with her own physical limitations, but so does the horse she has fallen in love with, and together they face their challenges and work towards a positive resolution. Friendship, love, hope and faith are also gently weaved into the fabric of this story making it a great read for not just fans of horses, but animal lovers alike. The author expertly writes a story that not only flows well but has likable characters who you really want to root for. It is also an easy read recommended for middle school children because it is not overly bogged down with horse keeping terms, but explains things well enough to keep the story exciting and understandable.
Quill says: Mary's Song is a great story about love, friendship and tenacity all sweetly wrapped up in a tale about the love of a horse sure to please readers.