cover image I Rode a Horse of Milk White Jade

I Rode a Horse of Milk White Jade

Diane Lee Wilson, Wilson Diana Lee. Scholastic, $18.95 (240pp) ISBN 978-0-531-30024-4

No ordinary horse story, Wilson races out of the gates with her debut account of Oyuna, an equestrian girl living in 14th-century Mongolia; the author links the epic and the ordinary, and transforms a curse into a blessing. Oyuna enters ""into the realm of the horse"" when a horse's hoof crushes her foot as a toddler, disabling her and bringing bad luck to her ail (her family and clan of herdsman). To redeem their luck, the girl resolves to win the annual race at the festival in Karakorum. But the aspiring contestant's preparation does not entail daily workouts and hours of repetition. What Wilson has in mind for Oyuna is a journey, in which the girl sets out from home disguised as a boy among the Khan's army, then treks--with only her gifted horse and cat as companions--over many miles of winding mountain pathways and vast, barren flatlands. She meets up with strange women with magical potions and powers, and with the great Kublai Khan before finally coming full circle to Karakorum for the race itself. The author threads, throughout Oyuna's passage, pearls of Mongolian history (e.g., in her approach to the Khan, Oyana crosses the Great Wall) and culture--even vocabulary. Although Wilson's framework of a story-within-a-story results in the preaching of an anticlimactic moral, the ending steals no thunder from Oyuna's penultimate race, the culmination of her dream. Horse lovers or not, readers will be riveted. Ages 11-up. (Apr.)