|Secret horses of Briar Hill|
Author: Shepherd, Megan
A girl living in a children's hospital during WWII discovers that a winged horse has entered her world and needs her help.
|Accelerated Reader Information:|
Interest Level: MG
Reading Level: 4.60
Points: 6.0 Quiz: 186066
School Library Journal (00/08/16)
Booklist (+) (08/01/16)
Full Text Reviews:
School Library Journal - 08/01/2016 Gr 5–8—Featuring an unreliable narrator, this darkly atmospheric and humorless novel, set in a British countryside hospital for children with tuberculosis during World War II, blurs the line between fantasy and reality. Emmaline sees winged horses in the mirrors, meets a fugitive white-winged horse in the garden, and follows the Horse Lord's written instructions to steal a rainbow of brightly colored objects in order to protect the creature from a terrifying, menacing black-feathered horse. Mature and experienced readers might notice that the driven, earnest narrator stops seeing horses whenever she faces the painful realities of her life, but Shepherd deftly keeps the action going to distract from this fact. Chapters are all very short and well formed around single events, giving the book a choppy unevenness that emphasizes how silly Emmaline's quest really is; if it weren't so deeply psychological and gloomy, filled with vividly bleak imagery of bad weather, overworked nuns poorly supervising sick children mid-war in midwinter, and velvet-coated, warm-eyed horses, the story would border on absurdity. VERDICT Ideal for readers who love to immerse themselves in emotionally wrought period pieces.—Rhona Campbell, Georgetown Day School, Washington, DC - Copyright 2016 Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and/or School Library Journal used with permission.
Booklist - 08/01/2016 *Starred Review* In the midst of WWII England, Emmaline is sent to the countryside to live at Briar Hill Hospital, where all the children—Emmaline included—suffer from stillwaters (TB). Blackout curtains keep out the light; illness and nuns’ habits pervade the hospital; and her closest friend, Anna, is so sick that she cannot venture outside. Emmaline constantly seeks escape, both by going into the drab winter gardens and by seeing winged horses in the mirrors inside the hospital. When she discovers an injured winged horse named Foxfire has escaped the mirror world and taken shelter in the sundial garden, Emmaline’s life takes on purpose: she must help protect Foxfire from Volkrig, the black-winged horse that threatens Foxfire while she heals. Narrated by Emmaline, whose health grows steadily weaker as the story progresses, this quietly powerful novel draws in the reader with its magic realism. Endearing characters, metaphors for life and death, and a slow revelation of the horrors of war give this slim novel a surprising amount of heft. In her middle-grade debut, Shepherd blurs the line between real and imaginary, leaving room for readers to debate the story’s meaning. Classics such as Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden and C. S. Lewis’ Narnia books inform this moving, magically tinged slice of historical fiction. - Copyright 2016 Booklist.