Dream Riders : Frankie by Laura Bloom and Jesse Blackadder

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Walker Books, 2019. ISBN: 9781760650513.
(Age: 10-12) Recommended. Themes: Horse-riding, family relationships, friendship, bullying. Laura Bloom and Jesse Blackadder's Dream Riders series focuses on an alternative riding school the Pocket of Dreams, where riders learn to relate with their horses in a more natural way. Each middle grade novel explores the lives of a young teenager who is finding their own identity, overcoming personal struggles, building relationships, friendships and their horse-riding abilities.
Frankie's families have moved to Mullumbimby for a tree change, her parents have separated and her Mum lives with new partner Vivian and her daughter Elise. Dad isn't coping with the marriage breakdown and Frankie is caught in the middle. She excited about Mum's promise of her own horse, but the reality doesn't quite match Frankie's dreams. Zen is a rather tubby pony with a windy problem. Frankie's first encounters with the girls at the local riding school are difficult, the elite riders are snobby, putting both Frankie and Zen down. She must join the beginner's class and struggles with her disappointments.
When Kai a close friend comes to stay with Mum and Vivian, Frankie's unsure of his actions and their relationship goes through some ups and downs. Life is tough on both the home front and in school where Frankie is bullied by the snobby girls from the riding school.
When Frankie meets Shannon the owner of a unique equestrian centre, she learns new techniques to connect to her pony Zen and begins to understand herself better. As she creates and organises the Dream Riders' club, Frankie's relationships change, and she comes to value her family and new friends.
Laura Bloom and Jesse Blackadder's Frankie explores current issues from family breakdowns, same sex couples, peer pressure, addiction to technology and bullying. A great novel for readers from ten who enjoy animal stories and teenage life with real and relatable characters. Teacher's notes for the series are available.
Rhyllis Bignell