Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Brumbies in the Snow

Brumbies in the Snow by Paula Boer Illus. Rowena Evans (IFWG Publishing)
PB RRP $16.99
ISBN: 978 0 9923020 7 8

Reviewed by Hilary Smillie

Book Two in the classy 5-book Brumbies series finds former town-girl Louise, and Ben, who lives on a nearby farm, hard at work training the brumbies they rescued six months ago from a cull in the mountains. Honey is Louise's mare, and Brandy, Ben's spirited young stallion. The teenagers regretted not being able to save more, but the brumbies that had been herded into a pen escaped. Louise and Ben are sure their nasty neighbour Robert Smythe-Waters had opened the gate. As it was, Honey and Brandy were only captured with the assistance of Old Harry the hermit and his extensive knowledge of brumbies and the bush. Gradually the two unbroken horses are being trained for riding and soon the teenagers intend to saddle them and get them used to this new sensation.  

It is winter now and snow has arrived but despite the weather Ben and Louise set out on Ben’s horses, Snip and Ned, and take the brumbies with them on lead ropes. This proves a challenge for Ben and then, when a tree branch breaks with a loud crack, Honey's lead slips from Louise's hand as the frightened brumby gallops into the trees. Despite Ben telling her not to try and find her, Louise couldn't bear to chance losing Honey completely. She ignores Ben and surges ahead, leaving Ben to return home.  
The search is futile and Louise finds herself and Ned in a perilous situation. Narrowly avoiding an avalanche, she comes across a black stallion she recognises as part of the brumby pack Honey came from. It is injured and desperately needs help. Ben's worry about Louise and his anger that she ignored his instructions are swept away when Louise arrives back with the news about the stallion. But any plans to get to the stallion and put it out of its pain have to go on hold. Two people are missing in the snow and the ranger needs all the help he can get. Finding Honey also comes second to humans in need. 

Paula Boer's setting of countryside overwhelmed by snowy conditions ramps up the tension in the story. Her attention to detail, e.g., brushing horses' hooves with Stockholm tar to prevent snow from balling up their feet; a white rainbow of frozen crystals to delight Louise; the snow bridge across the iced-up Dalrymple River and the training steps Ben and Louise have yet to take to break in their beloved brumbies demonstrate her vast experience of horses and the High Country in winter. Brumbies in the Snow is packed to the brim with exciting scenarios. The teenagers discover more about Old Harry and also themselves when, challenged by their circumstances, they discover inner strengths. By the end of the book Ben has achieved one of his dreams and Louise's horsemanship is continuing to develop by leaps and bounds.

Illustrated simply with black and white drawings but with great impact by talented illustrator, Rowena Evans, this second book is a thoroughly enjoyable continuation from Brumbies. Young horse-lovers will relate immediately to the characters and look forward to reading the third. All five books in this brilliant series are now available.

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