Monday 2 September 2019

Running with Horses

Running with Horses by Alison Lester (Puffin Books) HB RRP $16.99 ISBN 9781760892760

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

This is a work of fiction, inspired by the rescue of Lipizzaner stallions from the Spanish Riding School in Vienna during the Second World War. The new edition of Running with Horses marks ten years since the story was first published by one of Australia’s best-loved author/illustrators for children. It is the story of Nina, who riding her old horse Zelda, escapes with her father and a friend on a dangerous escapade following bomb damage in their city.

Nina, a motherless child, lives in a palace which is home to the Royal Academy of Dancing Horses where Nina’s father Viktor is the stable master. People come from all over the world to see the horses dancing. By the age of ten, the Academy has closed, and a war is raging, with fighting coming closer to Nina’s city. With Karl, a groom at the Academy, Nina and her father travel on a long journey, leading horses with Nina riding old Zelda to safety across the Alps.

The story is simple and well-told and is likely to have great appeal to children aged seven to ten years. It is a beautifully designed illustrated book with exquisite pictures on the fly pages that look like stamps of men riding dancing horses, and black and white illustrations with frequent full-page coloured illustrations. The style of Lester’s artwork is eye-catching and appealing with frequent contrasts of colour. 

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