Kathleen Duey has written over eighty books for children and young adults. Here well-known middle-grade series include American Diaries, Survival, and Hoofbeats. Her young adult novel Skin Hunger was a National Book Award Honor finalist. She lives in Fallbrook, California.
Duey (the Unicorn's Secret series) trots out the Hoofbeats series with this conventionally satisfying yet occasionally sluggish story. Set on an Iowa farm in the 184os, it introduces the nine-year-old narrator, Katie Rose, who has been living with the heartless, demanding Stevenses ever since her parents and sister died of fever three years earlier. Performing never-ending chores, Katie dreams of going to live with her uncle-who hasn't yet written back to her-and steals time in the barn, finding solace in the company of the animals. The lonely girl establishes a special rapport with a wild mustang that Mr. Stevens has been tricked into buying and that seems incapable of being tamed. Recognizing the stallion's potential-and sensing that it needs a friend as much as she does-Katie soothes the horse and clandestinely allows it the exercise it desperately needs. The girl's hopes rise when Mr. Stevens decides to sell the farm and move west to homestead, in Oregon-where Katie's uncle lives-she later overhears the farmer's plans to place her in an orphanage and destroy the mustang. Horse aficionados will be the most appreciative audience for the sometimes protracted barn scenes involving Katie and the mustang, as well as the hoky chapter openers seemingly narrated by the mustang itself. Yet the heroine's plight and pluck and the novel's dramatic conclusion may well entice other readers to ride on to Book Two, due out the same month. Ages 8-up. (May) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.