When Tessa's parents split up and she is torn from the side of Shiner, the eyeless mare she has doted on since early childhood, Tessa grows into an angry and rebellious spitfire. Kicked out of every school that tries to tame her, the 12-year-old is at last sent as an unwilling worker to the small farm run by tenants of her nasty stepfather (a man whose vices include cruelty, the glaring ostentation of the nouveau riche and--perhaps worst of all, by this book's standards--no true feeling for racing and horses). On the farm, Tessa sulks and scowls until she discovers that Buffoon, the awkward, gangling new horse she's been assigned to care for, is--in a bit of forgivable novelistic coincidence--the offspring of her long-lost Shiner. With Buffoon as the new focus of her prodigious energies, the headstrong girl struggles against numerous obstacles in order to eventually achieve the goal of riding her charge in the Grand National. British author Peyton's (Snowfall) knowledge of the racing world is thorough enough that readers will likely overlook a few halting shifts in point of view and some sloppy writing (e.g., ""As well as running the home, she did the paperwork for both the farm and the racing department and ran a poultry business as well,"" Tessa observes of the woman who runs the tenant farm). Her distinctively cadenced prose (""And an idiotic smile lit up her face, Tom could almost feel it, like an electric fire. What a girl!"") keeps the narrative galloping at a cracking pace. Ages 12-up. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 03/01/2001 Release date: 03/01/2001 Genre: Children's
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