Review of ‘Dream Riders: Frankie’
‘Dream Riders’ is a new middle grade series about the lives of the ‘dream riders’ as they enter the world of the ‘Pocket of Dreams’. Located in Mullumbimby, this idyllic property is an alternative horse riding school; bridles and saddles are abandoned and, instead, riders learn how to ride by developing rapport with their horses. Yes it’s a series in which horses feature – but it is oh so much more. There are challenges to be faced and hard lessons to be learnt, as well as plenty of tween and teen social and emotional daily ups and downs.
Series Title: ‘Dream Riders’
Authors: Laura Bloom and Jesse Blackadder
Publisher: Walker Books
Age: middle primary; upper primary; middle grade.
Themes: family; friends; horses; school; diversity; LGTBQI*; divorce; bullying; technology
Click on title links or cover image to purchase.
Frankie has always wanted a horse and when her family move to Mullumbimby for a ‘tree change’, she is hopeful this will become a reality. As it turns out, the ‘tree change’ was perhaps a last attempt at saving Frankie’s parents’ marriage, and the story begins with Frankie at her dad’s place and then off to her mums, who has repartnered and set up family with Vivian and her young daughter. Frankie is caught between concern for her dad, who is clearly not coping and is deeply saddened by the marriage breakdown, and excitement as her mother presents her with the opportunity of a horse of her own.
Excitement turns somewhat to dismay upon meeting Zen, who is not really the noble steed Frankie had in mind, more of a round and gassy pony. Adding to the complexity of Frankie’s life, a former close friend of hers,Kai, is sent for an extended stay with her mum and Vivian and it’s a bit of a mystery as to what is going on in his life. Meanwhile, determined to give Zen a go, Frankie turns up at the local riding school, which is somewhat of a training ground for future top level riders, a few of whom are not at all keen on a beginner rider on a gassy pony. Riding school and school friendships collide and Frankie is now struggling on both home and school fronts.
As Frankie is about to give up on her dream of riding, she finds a nearby property – named the Pocket of Dreams, on which alternative ways of connecting with and riding a horse are taught. As Frankie works on re-learning riding and horse care she also finds herself looking inwards and facing some some of her fears around friendships and family.
Look – I did ride as a child and I even competed a few times. I have some adorable (really!) photos of me all dressed up at a few horse shows and I loved weekends spent roaming my grandparents’ farm on Smokey (who was also a round, gassy pony). However, I was never enamoured with horse books as a tween, and now as a teacher librarian, I’ve weeded some truly dreadful horse books from the collection, leaving only a few good ones to replace them. Allison Lester, Samantha Wheeler and Alyssa Brugman have done a sterling job with their horse books but that’s about it as far as I’m concerned. I’m very happy that I can now add ‘Dream Riders’ to my list of horse books for those readers who love nothing more than to escape into horseworld, whether they are riders or not. ‘Dream Riders: Frankie’ has wide appeal beyond those who enjoy horse books – in fact the horse themes are more a vehicle for looking at contemporary issues facing tweens and teens. This first novel touches on same sex relationships and family breakdown, overuse/addiction to technology and subtle bullying. Highly recommended for readers from 10+.
About the Authors
Laura Bloom grew up in Sydney, reading constantly and dreaming of becoming a writer. Now she lives in a small country town with her family and lots of animals, writing novels for children and adults. Her books have been short-listed for awards and sold in many countries. Her next novel for young readers, ‘Mika and Max’ is out later this year and is about a girl who meets a boy who makes her see everything differently.
Jesse Blackadder was a horse-mad city kid who wanted to be a vet. She was that girl who postered her bedroom with horses and crowded her dressing table with prancing plastic ponies. She finally became a horse-owner when she moved to the country as an adult. Jesse is the winner of several literary awards and has published novels for adults and children, including ‘Paruku The Desert Brumby’, based on the true story of a group of wild Australian brumbies that became endurance racehorses in Dubai. Read more at Walker Books.
My Top Twenty Horse Books for Children list is here.