Friday, August 15, 2014

Wind Dancer by Chris Platt

Ali and her best friend Cara have no idea of the consequences they will face when they sneak into a neighbours barn in search of two starving horses.  For weeks they have watched the steady decline of the horses from healthy and energetic, to skinny and lethargic.  A complaint to animal welfare does nothing, so they decide to find the horses themselves.  What they find are two pathetic horses that are close to death, but their anonymous call to animal welfare suddenly drops them in a whole lot of trouble.
When Ali's parents find out she and Cara snuck into the barn in the middle of the night they ground her for sneaking out - but they also make arrangements for the two horses to be delivered to their property so they can get the care they need to get back on their feet and healthy.  Ali doesn't know what to do, she has had very little to do with horses since the death of her beloved pony, she doesn't want the horses there but she aslo feels a little responsible for them.  
To make matters even more complicated Ali and her family have to deal with the emotional roller coaster ride that is her brother Danny.  Danny came back from the war missing part of his leg, but he also seems to have lost some of his spirit as well.  He has shut himself off from the rest of the family, but he seems to have a connection with one of the rescued horses, and Ali can't help but feel a little hope when the horses seem to improve - but are looks deceiving?
Wind Dancer is a quick read for older children that deals with two very difficult and confronting issues - veterans returning from war with PTSD and physical wounds, and the neglect of animals.  What could have become a dark and dreary read is instead a story of discovery and hope as Danny and Ali learn more about each other and the challenges each are facing, balanced with the realism of the concern of their parents and the real challenges Danny faces because of his missing leg and PTSD.  
The issues covered make this book most suitable for older children and 'tweens as younger readers may struggle with the emotional content, and they would generally lack the understanding of the horrors of modern warfare and the psychological and physical impact it has on veterans.  For me Platt struck the right balance between expresing the challenges Danny and Ali face, while not becoming too graphic or bogged down in detail.  Children should not be protected from the harsh realities of the world, and age appropriate stories like Wind Dancer offer parents the opportunity to expose their children to the darker side of life without the content being too dark or heavy for them to handle.
If you like this book then try:
  • A dog called Homeless by Sarah Lean
  • A hundred horses by Sarah Lean
  • Defiance by Valerie Hobbs
  • Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo
  • Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
  • Wenny has wings by Janet Lee Carey
  • Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry
  • My friend Flicka by Mary O'Hara

Reviewed by Brilla

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