June’s theme of Buzzwordathon is ‘All’. This means the word ‘all’ has to appear somewhere in the title. Originally, I was going to read All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. But I figured reading a five hundred and thirty plus page book after a three hundred- and forty-three-page book (The Light Between Oceans) put me in a “reading slump” was not a wise decision. Therefore, I decided to read A Horse Called Holiday by Frances Wilbur instead. This is because a) the book is two hundred and three pages and b) the word ‘all’ is found within the word ‘called’.
Despite this change of plans, there were aspects of the book I liked! Frances took the time to showcase the world of equine sports, specifically show jumping. She goes into detail on how much time, effort, and money it takes to find success in this particular hobby/extracurricular. When it comes to horse-related stories in entertainment media, specifically those for a younger audience, some of them might end up glamorizing the idea of horse ownership. With that said, I appreciate Frances’ realistic approach to equine related activities. I also liked the protagonist, Meredith “Middie” Scott! Even though she has her flaws, Middie has admirable qualities as well. One of them is how hard she works toward her dream of being a successful horse rider. Throughout the story, Middie takes care of other people’s horses. She does this to gain riding experience and earn money to afford a horse of her own. Since A Horse Called Holiday would be classified as a middle grade story, Middie is a good character for younger readers to look up to. At various points in the book, the text is written in italized letters. These passages are from the titular horse’s perspective. Through these passages, the reader learns more about Holiday’s past, such as why he is so good at jumping fences. Insight into why Holiday reacts the way he does is provided, giving a unique component to this story!
In the book’s synopsis, it states “Middie’s always taken the easy way out”. Some characters remind Middie how she rushes through certain tasks. But throughout the story, these claims didn’t feel consistent. That’s because, over the course of the book, the reader also sees Middie working hard toward her dream. Since there was more evidence for the latter than the former, it felt like the text was giving mixed messages. An overarching issue within Middie’s life was how she felt unappreciated due to her birth being “unexpected”. Because most of the story focuses on Holiday’s training, Frances ends up telling instead of showing the Scott family’s struggles. This emphasis on Holiday’s training also caused the overall conflict to be weaker. While it does provide interesting insight into show jumping, some readers might find A Horse Called Holiday boring due to the limited amount of intrigue.
In my opinion, A Horse Called Holiday is a fine, harmless, horse-related story. In fact, it would be a good introduction to horse-related literature. Without spoiling the book, I will say the resolutions were nice, but expected. However, the story is straight-forward and easier to follow.
Overall score: 3.6 out of 5 stars
Have fun during Buzzwordathon!
Disclaimer: There is one chapter in A Horse Called Holiday featuring horses getting hurt. One rider is described as “plump” and Holiday’s deafness is described as a “handicap”.