Review Blog

Sep 09 2010

Running with the horses by Alison Lester

cover image

Puffin, 2009. ISBN 9780670868339.
Highly recommended. Nina lives in a palace that was home to the Royal Academy of Dancing Horses. When the soldiers arrive, her father Viktor knows that it is time for them to flee the city, taking the last four stallions in the palace to safety. Nina creeps out that night to say a last good bye to Zelda, an old cab mare who has been deserted and whom she loves. When a huge explosion rocks the building, Viktor decides that they have to leave, and Nina, unable to bear leaving Zelda behind, brings her along. Their journey to safety is fraught with danger and Zelda proves just how valuable she is, when she warns the group of perilous conditions.
Inspired by the rescue of the Lipizzaner stallions from the Spanish Riding School in Vienna during World War 2, Lester has written an exciting and inspiring story. I loved the story of Zelda, who was just a poor old mare who hardly seemed to compare with the majestic white stallions. Yet it is her experience and knowledge of danger that ensures the safety of the group on a number of occasions. Nina's bravery and belief in Zelda will touch the hearts of young readers or those who listen to the story.
A page of prose is perfectly complemented by a beautiful full-page illustration on the opposite side. The red of the city going up in flames, the stark blue and white of the mountains and dark blue of the night sky highlights the black and white figures of the horses.
This story is a feast for both the eyes and ears and deserves a place in every library.
Pat Pledger

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