Sep 1, 2009

Book Rec: Wild Girl by Patricia Reilly Giff

Wild Girl
Patricia Reilly Giff

Lidie lives in Brazil. She's a wild girl who rides and dreams of one day going to live with her father and older brother in New York. Lidie's mother died long ago. When Lidie is twelve, it's time to leave for Queens, New York, where her father runs a stable at a famous racetrack and her brother is training to be a jockey.

Meanwhile, a foal is born on a farm and starts its journey to a new home. As Lidie's story unfolds, so does the tale of this filly.

When Lidie arrives in New York, she discovers that settling into her new world is a big challenge. And that her loving father and brother still think of her as the little girl they left behind. They don't even know what a strong rider she is. She must show them the real Lidie: she'll befriend, and ride, the filly her father just bought--Wild Girl.

The Review:
I've complained about a lot when it comes to middle grade horse fiction. Irritating main characters, predictable stories, super fantastic horses, antagonists with little to no purpose...the list just goes on and on. So here's when I say something a little out of character for me: Wild Girl should be on the reading lists of every aspiring or established author of horsey fiction.

It's not that it's amazing. It's just a good story, centered on a likable girl with realistic problems that have nothing to do with a horse of her own plot. The horse in question is not the second coming of every wonder horse in fiction. She's just a young filly that doesn't quite know what's expected of her, and is as equally scared as she is curious. Like most horses in the world.

Lidia arrives in New York knowing little English, and hardly knowing the father and brother that arrive to meet her. There is enough understandable awkwardness to go around, and Lidie is left feeling about as cold as the New York winter she's suddenly walked into from her Brazilian sunshine. It doesn't help matters that her family remembers her as a seven-year-old girl, obsessed with Disney and the color pink. Lidie's done some growing up, and these things were cast aside years ago, but she hasn't grown up enough to come out and easily tell her father and brother who she is, what she likes, and what she's capable of.

To make matters worse, nothing is exactly easy for Lidia on her first day of school. Language barriers create some horrifying memories, and she bolts, convinced that she's never going to fit in. Poor Lidia's got a lot on her plate, so when they drive out to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania to pick up a couple of horses, she finds a bit of a kindred spirit in Wild Girl, a filly that's been on a similar journey.

So, this is where I stop talking about the plot, because I really liked this one. In the end, filly and girl are both missing something. They eventually find what they're looking for. It's a sweet book, with none of the usual grating horse story components you'll usually find. To help matters, it's a quick, well-written read. For instance, this is a chapter:

The filly felt the taste of the strange food in her mouth long after she'd swallowed. It was a good taste, the taste of a field on a summer day.

One of the creatures had come into her space. The noises it made were soft. It had brushed her side until her skin rippled with its good feeling.

And when the creature had climbed up on her, the filly had barely felt its weight, just its warmth.

It was something....

It wasn't like being in the field with the other horses, but still...


So go find it and read it already.


Elizabeth said...

Interesting. My only exposure to Patricia Reilly Giff is the Kids of the Polk Street School series, which I enjoyed, but is written for RL 2 or so. But then, this is like when I don't think Francine Pascal is a real person. I'm sure authors hate being remembered for their series.

dustywhipp5 said...

This was an okay book, but actually I didn't like it. A little bit plain, not much going on.