Thursday, October 29, 2020

The Hungry Place

Haas, Jessie. The Hungry Place
October 13th 2020 by Boyds Mills Press
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Rae lives with her father, who is an artist who does found sculptures, which his job as a garbage collector supports. Her grandmother, Gammer, lives in a trailer and spends the winters in the south, but the rest of the year near Rae. Rae's mother, who passed away, was an avid equestrienne, and Rae hopes to follow in her footsteps and one day have her own pony. Princess is a Connemara pony born to an elderly mare, but seems to have the breeding and carriage to be an excellent show pony. She is owned by Roland, an elderly man who is well-to-do and has raised many ponies, who currently employs a trainer, Charlie, and his wife Darlene to help manage his stable. When his health declines, he sells some of the ponies but refuses to part with Princess. Rae's Gammer is sympathetic to Rae's wish to own a pony, and shows her how to take practical steps to eventually own one, even though the family's finances do not permit that currently. When the two attend a pony show, Rae sees Princess, and the pony and girl feel an immediate connection. Rae continues to visit stables, and is sad that her friend, Eden, has sold her own pony and is taking riding lessons that Rae cannot afford. Over the course of a few years, she and Gammer save up a little for Rae to go to a three week riding camp. Around this time, Roland is in the hospital and is unable to come back to his stables, and Charlie and Darleen strip his house of valuables and put the remaining ponies out to pasture, reporting back that everything is fine when it is not. Eventually, the ponies almost starve and are taken over by an animal charity, which places Princess with Trish, who runs the riding camp which Rae attends. Few people can ride Princess, who was finnicky even before her abuse and near starvation, but Rae and Princess bond. Is there any way that the two can spend more time together?
Strengths: The details about riding and caring for a pony are very good, and the additional information about being a pony and being involved in competitions will delight readers who have equestrian aspirations. There is some interesting friend drama with Eden, and the depiction of a riding camp is a great inclusion. The story of the evil trainer was a bit melodramatic for me, but certainly riveting. I did enjoy Gammer, and her very practical advice to not just ask "may I have a pony?" but "HOW could I get a pony". I'm a fan of any book where a child has a particular interest and works hard to be able to make dreams come true. The conclusion is believable and practical.
Weaknesses: Rae is very young, but that isn't all that evident in the story line and her actions. As a parent, she made me bristle with her constant whining about having a pony; clearly, young readers will be more sympathetic. I'm also not as much of a fan of chapters being from the pony's perspective, especially when this trope starts at the pony's birth.
What I really think: Haas knows her way around a equine story; I very much enjoyed Rescue, and she also does the early reader Bramble and Maggie series, along with other titles. Since readers who enjoy these books often binge on them, I like to purchase a few every year and will definitely include this one in my order.

I never went through a horse phase, so am not the target demographic for this. My cousin lived in the country and did own a horse for many years, and I get a fair number of students who take lessons and have the same aspirations that Rae has.

Ms. Yingling

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