Review Blog

Aug 13 2018

The promise horse by Jackie Merchant

cover image

Walker Books Australia, 2018. ISBN 9781760650568
(Age: 9+) Recommended. If you are a horse-lover you will relate to the story of Harry. Evocative moments of a growing relationship between a patient horse and a heart sore girl are shown as a grieving family try to ford the emotions left by the death of Harry's sister, Sissy.
Harry's mother is understandably not coping with the loss of her daughter from leukaemia and her maternal guilt at her helplessness is all-consuming. This protectiveness has been transferred to her surviving daughter, as she struggles, sometimes aggressively, with the promise she made.
Now they have moved back to the country where her parents grew up, Harry is eager to own a horse, but the best they can do is borrow a horse from the local horse trainer. Marksman is gentle and patient, a temperament perfect for an inexperienced rider; but at over 15 hands high, he is huge! Harry might be exceptionally tall herself and with her red hair and freckles is agonizingly self-conscious about standing out. On Marksman she will sit higher than other riders her age, so standing out will be even harder to avoid.
Hiding Sissy's voice chastising her and seeing the negativity and fear from her mother, Harry constantly apologises to Marksman for her own feelings of insecurity. With the help of Gran and Pa, Marksman's rider, Lizzie Blackburn, and even the school bully, Billy Johnston, Harry works hard to improve her riding skills so her mother will allow her to participate in the gymkhana.
"The promise horse" is not just a story about the therapeutic affect of animals, it is a cleverly blended story of two powerful emotions, loss and insecurity, in both children and adults. It is an example of the overwhelming challenges we may face and how we can overcome our hardships in many different ways. The promise horse will leave a radiating warmth in your heart.
Recommended to readers 9yrs+. And you might also like similar books such as "The Thunderbolt Pony" by Stacy Gregg, "Dirt" by Denise Orenstein and the series "Horses of the Dawn" by Kathryn Lasky.
Reviewed by Sharon Smith

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