The equine obsession continues today, with my review of new middle-grade release Dream Riders: Frankie by Laura Bloom and Jesse Blackadder. This is the first of four books in their Dream Riders series about friendship and natural horsemanship, and (as per the title) stars a girl called Frankie (and her pony, Zen).
From the Walker website:
Frankie’s dream is more like a nightmare when her new horse turns out to be Zen – a shaggy, disobedient clown of a pony, who will totally wreck her chances of fitting in at Pony Club in her new town. Zen is everything Frankie doesn’t want – until the magnetic horse whisperer Shannon shows her just what Zen could be if ridden freely. Natural horsemanship opens up a whole new way of riding and a whole new world of connection between Zen and Frankie. But Frankie’s dad is getting more depressed after her parents’ divorce, star rider and star mean girl Violet has it in for Frankie, and her best friend Kai is keeping a secret. Then Shannon announces she’s closing down her riding centre. Frankie’s got an idea that could save it … but can she and Zen rise to the challenge?
I really liked this one! I have been the horse obsessed girl at pony club, and that part of me still connects so much with this kind of book – and the description of Zen really reminded me of my own shaggy grey pony Surprise. I love how the story is focused on Frankie’s relationship with Zen, but we are getting an insight into all of the things that are going on in her life – changes to her family situation, she’s had a falling out with an old friend, and she’s trying to make friends in a new place – so it is about more that ‘just’ the horse stuff.
Something I liked a lot about the family dynamics part of the story was that Frankie’s mum has just moved in with her new partner, who happens to be a woman – and this is just a fact, rather than a point of drama in the story. I’m loving seeing more diverse families in books for kids where diversity is a focus, and I also think it is great to see ‘non traditional’ families normalised in books where it isn’t the main focus of the story, if that makes sense?
The series has a focus on a particular way of building the relationship between horse and rider – natural horsemanship – and the horse bits of the book were definitely technical enough to satisfy a reader who is really into it, but will still make sense for someone who knows less about horses too.
I think these will be great reads for fans of The Saddle Club books, and I love that the Australian setting comes through in the storytelling. To be completely honest, I felt a bit sad when I got to the end of this one because I wanted more – as soon as I finished I looked up the release date of the second book (it’s out in September btw!)
Dream Riders: Frankie by Laura Bloom and Jesse Blackadder
Out now from Walker Books
Source: Free copy sent to me by Walker Books
Category: MG contemporary fiction (recommended age from 8 years)