I liked this book the best of the series so far, with three more to go. Parents should be aware the main topic is divorce, although that doesn’t become clear until the end of the book.
Hawk (Victoria Hawkins) has been friendly to Winnie in the past, but in this book she keeps her distance, preferring to do things with Winnie’s rival, Summer Spidell. Hawk isn’t even spending time with her horse, Towaco. Towaco bites Winnie’s horse and later tries to bite Hawk.
A vet doesn’t find anything physically wrong with the horse and decides Towaco might be depressed. He offers equine antidepressants. (I never knew there was such a thing, but in today’s world, there probably is.) Winnie insists the horse doesn’t need the medication—and I agree!
Winnie is upset because her father is seeing more of his friend, Madeline. Mr. Willis wants Winnie to meet the woman’s son, Mason. Mason is afraid of horses. Both adults believe Winnie can help Mason overcome that fear.
Winnie wants nothing to do with Madeline or her son, but her father insists. Winnie refuses to listen when her father tries to tell her about Mason. She has an idea that he’s a teenage genius who is already attending college. She’s surprised when she actually meets the boy—a seven-year-old who had experienced a traumatic head injury as a baby.
I totally agree with the equine therapy concepts of the book. Horses have an amazing ability to help heal emotional relationships and build confidence. Although, I don’t know that a twelve-year-old is capable of handling such a responsibility. Winnie has Mason blowing into the nostrils of Towaco—the horse who had tried to bite his owner just days before! And, Winnie drops the lead rope at one point and Towaco trots away while Mason is riding him. That could have been an unfortunate disaster. Mason’s joy around Towaco opens Winnie’s eyes and helps bring everyone together.
Winnie begins to unravel the problem with Hawk. When her parents leave for a trip, Hawk stays with the Willis family. Both parents send Hawk expensive gifts and make it clear which parent the gift is from. When Winnie questions Hawk about what’s going on, Hawk reminds her that her parents were in Reno.
“Reno. Ever hear of Reno, Winnie?”
I had heard of it. From TV or other kids. “Isn’t that where people go to … get a …” p. 157
I would have never connected a trip to Reno with the parents getting divorced and seriously doubt any young reader would either. Hawk explains that Summer wants her own parents to get divorced.
“Summer says she wishes her parents would get a divorce. She says most parents do sooner or later. And it works out just fine for the kids. Summer says they compete over you, let you do whatever you want, have anything you want.” p. 157
While I can read that and know it isn’t true, a sensitive young reader might be disturbed by it. She may begin to wonder if/when her parents are going to get a divorce.
Hawk has been avoiding Winnie and Towaco because she doesn’t want to get too close to them.
“Because it is easier that way. It doesn’t hurt as much to lose things you are not close to.” p. 158
Hawk explains that her dad is moving out, and she and her mom may have to move. (although her mother has been presented as a very successful lawyer, so it doesn’t seem that a move would be financially necessary)
Winnie provides some insightful thoughts, that she seems to be learning for herself as well.
“Mason grabs onto the little things and doesn’t let go. That’s what I want to do. I don’t want to miss all of God’s little surprises because I’m tied in knots over something I can’t change.” (Winnie, p. 159)
“Or friendship—with your horse or with another person, even if it isn’t what you thought it would be. If we’re so hung up on what it isn’t, we lose what it is.” p. 160