cover image Mrs. Mack

Mrs. Mack

Patricia Polacco. Philomel Books, $16.99 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-399-23167-4

Girls who love horses will strongly identify with Polacco's (Thank You, Mr. Falker) autobiographical story of a climactic Michigan summer. Ten-year-old Pat is thrilled when her father decides she's old enough to learn to ride. Pat assumes she is getting a horse of her own, but instead her father takes her to ""Dogpatch,"" the poor area of his town. There they find a rundown stable owned by Mrs. Mack, a Southerner in snakeskin boots who, Pat's father says, ""has forgotten more about horses than most people will ever know in a lifetime."" Mrs. Mack takes Pat under her wing, and through her daily visits Pat learns how to forge relationships, not only with a difficult horse, but with two tough stable hands and Hap, Mrs. Mack's aloof neighbor. Finally, Pat realizes her dream of riding Penny, the beautiful mare that later becomes her own. Pat's inviting first-person narration allows readers to come along for the ride, as she slowly conquers her fears. While the length and density of the text tends to give equal weight to the events, both large and small, Polacco's drawings convey the emotions of each scene, adding emphasis to pivotal points. A moving afterword recounts the relationship between Pat and Penny after the summer's end. Ages 4-8. (Oct.)