Book Review: Backyard Horse Tales: Sox, by Jackie Anton
Backyard Horse Tales: Sox (2nd edition) invites young readers into the high-profile world of competitive reining, and it is there that author and illustrator Jackie Anton finds her comfort zone, describing in vivid detail the challenges that face horse and rider in the show pen.
The hero of the tale is Sox, a Quarter Horse foal who is born with a disfigured leg, and overcomes his disability to excel as a reining horse. Sox and his mother, Sandy, communicate to each other and to the reader, Black Beauty style, speaking in the first person. Anton uses this conceit to describe Sox’s equine view of the world, but it’s a little self-conscious, particularly when she uses Sox’s voice to introduce the story’s human characters.
More authentic is the addition of 11-year-old Emma, the proverbial girl next door who is struggling with her own challenges. When Emma’s mother joins the military and is deployed to Iraq, Emma must relocate to small-town America to live with her grandmother. Emma’s diary entries give us some poignant insight into her feelings of isolation and her worry about her mother – but here, too, there is some awkwardness when we learn that Emma has been diagnosed with dyslexia. I’m not dyslexic myself, but I would imagine that a dyslexic character might not find it easy to generate the articulate diary entries we read; she would likely choose to express herself in another fashion.
Sox and Emma come together as they grow and mature, though on the whole, I would have liked to have read more about how they overcame their challenges. Sox’s contracted-tendon issue appears to resolve more or less on its own, and Emma’s dyslexia doesn’t seem to be much of an issue either. (Nor does her loneliness last forever, as her mother returns safe and sound from Iraq mid-way through the book.) Still, it’s clear that each needs the other and learns from the other as they grow from children to adults – and as Emma’s equestrian education at the farm next door progresses, she moves from riding Sox’s experienced and wise mother, to the young and cheeky Sox himself. (Thumbs up for this valuable message to young readers that green horse + green rider is not a healthy equation.)
Anton’s background as a rider and horsewoman shines through in the text of “Sox” — her hero is based on her own reining horse, Two Scooten Sox, who was lost to colic in 2009 — and both teens and adults will enjoy being immersed in the precision world of reining competition. Horse-crazy young readers will love the descriptions of county fairs and horse shows, and kids of all persuasions will find the episode in which a tornado strikes at a horse show, particularly gripping.
At times, the tale of Sox feels like a story in search of an ending … but when the conclusion does come, it’s eminently satisfying.
Backyard Horse Tales: Sox is self-published and is available in both print and e-book editions. Purchase Sox 2nd Edition at www.backyardhorsetales.com, or at Back to the Books online store, and enjoy free shipping.
The first five readers to purchase Sox, second edition before the end of this Blog Tour will receive a free copy of Backyard Horse Tales 2: Frosty and the Nightstalker. Purchases will be verified with resellers Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and a host of online retailers. Purchase an e-book and you will receive an e-book! Print editions of Frosty’s Tale will be autographed before they are shipped.
- Backyard Horse Tales: Sox Blog Tour- Author Guest Post (prettyopinionated.com)