In Linda Snow McLoon's debut novel in the Brookmeade Young Riders Series, Sarah Wagner is the quintessential "everygirl" character. She wants a horse of her own more than anything--and she is willing to work toward that goal. She doesn't dream, whine and pester her parents, who are burdened with medical bills from Mrs. Wagner's near-fatal car crash.
Sarah is a good kid. I like her--and her parents and little sister. There are no tyrants or brats in this family.
I also like the atmosphere at Brookmeade Farm, where Sarah takes lessons from a savvy Irishman, a former Olympic eventer (show jumper) another great character who dispenses lots of good advice in and out of the schooling ring.
Sarah's fellow students are well-crafted. Rita, the rich kid with a great horse and a father who would buy her anything, is insufferable, and I was glad to see that the good kids are tolerant of her. It takes character to be that forgiving.
The owners of Brookmeade Farm are every boarder's/riding student's dream. They care about everything that matters to horses and their riders.
Linda Snow Moon has a good background in the horse world, having competed in hunter-jumper and dressage shows and horse trials. It shows in her attention to accurate details. I appreciate this, having read so many dreadfully inaccurate (albeit commercially successful) horse books for young readers.
However, McLoon is sometimes too detailed, causing the action to slow down. Kids who are into horses know about feeding, stall mucking and tack cleaning. Skip the minutiae of the daily chores and pick up the pace of the story.
Here's my first real "whoa" moment in reading Crown Prince: Having worked on the backstretch at Belmont Park, I know that no track vet would ever overlook the simple medical problem that ultimately gives Sarah access to a very valuable Thoroughbred that has been branded a rogue. Granted, young readers may not realize this scenario is flawed, but it's risky to assume that. Of course, I may be making too big a deal of it.
What bothers me even more is that it's all too familiar. We've seen this basic plot and characters--or clones of them--in many, many horse books for young readers. Sarah as the perfect, but needy, kid. Her best friend, Kayla. Tim, who seems to be the only guy riding at the stable. Rita, the obnoxious spoiled kid with a string of to-die-for horses. The parent (Sarah's mother) with a health problem that puts a strain on family finances. Miraculously, everything works out for the best.
That said, I'm hoping the author got all the predictable stuff out of her system in Crown Prince and will surprise us in the sequel, Crown Prince Challenged. Watch for the review here.
Written for readers 12 years old and up, Crown Prince, by Linda Snow McLoon, is a 296-page paperback published by Trafalgar Square of North Pomfret, VT. Order it from HorseBooksEtc.com for $9.95.