Mending Horses: Reviews

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“Fluid writing and a true sense of history—including fascinating insights into early circuses—raise this well above the usual. Barker’s characters are nuanced, difficult, and real, and so is her sense of horses. An absorbing look into a patch of past not often examined.”

Kirkus Reviews (starred review, February 2014)

“Barker’s deft sketches even endow most peripheral characters with individuality… Barker fashions a well-researched roster of circus eccentrics to serve as a colorful backdrop to Daniel’s slow flowering as a horse trainer and Billy’s pugnacious evolution towards contentment..The sideshow troupers, tragic childhoods, and near-fatal altercations—plus some gender disguise—could combine for a noisy novel, but Barker crafts a story of grace and strength.”

–Robbin E. Friedman, Chappaqua Library, NY, School Library Journal (April 2014)

“…Barker skillfully evokes the realities of class, racial, and gender oppression in the nineteenth century through a rich cast, lifelike setting, and complex, compelling plot.”

Francisca Goldsmith, Booklist (starred review, April 2014)

“A skillful evocation of race, class, and gender in nineteenth-century New England.

Ilene Cooper, Booklist (Top 10 Historical Fiction for Youth, April 2015)

“’Mending Horses’ may be the best book I have reviewed in the past year. M. P. Barker’s young-adult novel is dramatic, insightful and lyrical…’Mending Horses’ is meticulously researched and smoothly paced. Barker explains in an afterword that the circus acts depicted are based on real 19th-century practices and she effortlessly draws readers into her story….I would recommend ‘Mending Horses’ to readers over the age of 11. The book has dark moments, but its message of hope and understanding should move teenagers and adults.”

–Tinky Weisblat, Greenfield Recorder (24 January 2015)

“…a poignant and seriously written work of  historical fiction and deals with issues of gender equality and acceptance of different cultures and races….an incredibly sweet, touching book about learning not only to trust others, but to trust yourself. It’s a wonderful coming of age novel about a boy and his horse and a girl who learns what it means to truly be free.”

–Morgan Lee, “For Such Love We Feel” blog

“M. P. Barker’s new book, Mending Horses, is a sequel to her first novel, A Difficult Boy. Quite often second books do not match the quality of the first effort, but in this case, the story of Daniel, an Irish lad recently freed from indentured servitude, continues the riveting plotlines and social conscious introspection that characterized its predecessor. The sense of time and place, New England in the 1830s, is so stark and vivid that you can almost smell the earthy richness of the farm country and hear the hoof beats of the prancing ponies that Daniel tames as the story progresses. The other major characters, a youngster with an angelic voice that belies an angry heart and an aging peddler who struggles to do what is best for his two young charges, bring vigor to the tale as they navigate physical, emotional, and moral obstacles. Even secondary characters, such as a wily conjurer, and a plethora of curious and sometimes cunning circus people, bring energy and imagination to this young adult novel. I am well beyond the young adult stage, and I found this book engaging, suspenseful, and delightful. The deep descriptions lured me into the time period, and I could not put it down. I would heartily recommend Mending Horses for anyone between the ages of twelve and a hundred and twelve.”

–Melva Michaelian, Educator and Author of Contemporary Fiction

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