Random House, 1941
I enjoyed this book as much as I did way back when – it moves along at a fast pace, there is excitement, some tension and a little worry that everything will work out. There are no real villains and no epic fight of good versus evil; instead, it is a good, wholesome story for kids who love horses. There is a horse fight – the Black and another stallion duke it out on the docks; and the Black does take down a man with a hoof; but other than that there’s no real violence. There is, however, imagining you’re riding like the wind on the back of a magnificent creature – no – flying through the wind! It’s really exhilarating! There is also loyalty, friendship and commitment – positive lessons for children and adults of all ages to learn and/or be reminded of!
Hyperion Paperbacks for Children, 1996, 1998
Thirteen-year-old Hand comes home from school and finds his father dead on the floor. He is alone in a rundown motel and then alone at the hospital where he waits. His mother left his father and his older sister, Vida, three years before and moved to Seattle. Vida is in college a couple of hours away. When Hand is eventually reunited with his mother, he is full of anger over her abandonment of him and resentment that his sister has seemingly welcomed their mother back into their lives. On top of all that, guilt weighs heavily on him – if only he had come straight home from school instead of staying for track practice his father would still be alive and his mother on the West Coast.
This book tackles what is hard for anyone, let alone a child, which is the death of a loved one. Over the course of a year the reader watches Hand grow from a closed-down soul of a boy into an understanding and compassionate young man. In the end he still has issues with his mother but he knows he can move beyond those problems and back into the life as a teenager.
The author writes Hand with compassion, sensitivity and an eye toward all the jumbled-up emotions death brings. This is one of those stories that the author could easily have stretched into hundreds of pages but has distilled it down bare bones and raw emotions. Among all of the books I have read by Gregory Maguire, this numbers among the best –its brevity of word and accessibility for all ages (although it is geared toward 9-12) offers hope even in the midst of grief.
Click on the author’s name to go to his website.
This review also published on Library of Cats under the non de plume of ‘Toby’.