Frankie has always wanted a horse and when her family move to Mullumbimby for a ‘tree change’, she is hopeful this will become a reality. As it turns out, the ‘tree change’ was perhaps a last attempt at saving Frankie’s parents’ marriage, and the story begins with Frankie at her dad’s place and then off to her mums, who has repartnered and set up family with Vivian and her young daughter. Frankie is caught between concern for her dad, who is clearly not coping and is deeply saddened by the marriage breakdown, and excitement as her mother presents her with the opportunity of a horse of her own.
Excitement turns somewhat to dismay upon meeting Zen, who is not really the noble steed Frankie had in mind, more of a round and gassy pony. Adding to the complexity of Frankie’s life, a former close friend of hers,Kai, is sent for an extended stay with her mum and Vivian and it’s a bit of a mystery as to what is going on in his life. Meanwhile, determined to give Zen a go, Frankie turns up at the local riding school, which is somewhat of a training ground for future top level riders, a few of whom are not at all keen on a beginner rider on a gassy pony. Riding school and school friendships collide and Frankie is now struggling on both home and school fronts.
As Frankie is about to give up on her dream of riding, she finds a nearby property – named the Pocket of Dreams, on which alternative ways of connecting with and riding a horse are taught. As Frankie works on re-learning riding and horse care she also finds herself looking inwards and facing some some of her fears around friendships and family.
Look – I did ride as a child and I even competed a few times. I have some adorable (really!) photos of me all dressed up at a few horse shows and I loved weekends spent roaming my grandparents’ farm on Smokey (who was also a round, gassy pony). However, I was never enamoured with horse books as a tween, and now as a teacher librarian, I’ve weeded some truly dreadful horse books from the collection, leaving only a few good ones to replace them. Allison Lester, Samantha Wheeler and Alyssa Brugman have done a sterling job with their horse books but that’s about it as far as I’m concerned. I’m very happy that I can now add ‘Dream Riders’ to my list of horse books for those readers who love nothing more than to escape into horseworld, whether they are riders or not. ‘Dream Riders: Frankie’ has wide appeal beyond those who enjoy horse books – in fact the horse themes are more a vehicle for looking at contemporary issues facing tweens and teens. This first novel touches on same sex relationships and family breakdown, overuse/addiction to technology and subtle bullying. Highly recommended for readers from 10+.