Shy farm girl Joni’s new friendship with animal rights activist Chess unravels when Chess’s views push Joni too far in this layered coming-of-age story about two girls and their love for horses.
Joni’s world revolves around her beloved horse, Archie, and her family’s Vermont sheep farm. When outspoken, sophisticated Chess moves nearby, Joni is drawn to her, even though Chess questions everything Joni loves—working horses, eating cheese, having pets, and even the farm itself. Torn between desperately wanting a friendship and resenting Chess’s assumptions about horses and farms, Joni mostly keeps her opinions to herself. But when Chess steals their neighbor’s miniature horses to “rescue” them, Joni finds the courage to stand up for her beliefs. With quiet intensity, this timely novel tackles the complex issue of bridging the political divide and building friendships while staying true to yourself.
Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mentions of inhumane treatment of animals
Kirkus Reviews (February 1, 2018)
A Vermont farm girl’s new friend fights for animal rights. Joni, a 12-year-old white girl, loves the quiet and calm of her family’s sheep farm; she loves riding her pony, Archie, after school. But her best school friends don’t live nearby, so when a new girl, Chess (also white), moves into a house Joni passes on her rides, she’s intrigued by the possibility of a new friend. Chess loves Joni’s horse, kittens, and sheep, but she asks uncomfortable questions: don’t the sheep mind being shorn? Milked? Eaten? Joni doesn’t know how to answer, but she does challenge Chess’ interpretation of her neighbor’s treatment of her miniature horses—Chess is certain their muzzles, which restrict them from overgrazing, are cruel, while Joni knows they keep the animals safe on lush pasture. When Chess steals the minis and sets them free to eat, the near disaster challenges their budding friendship. Chess’ back story is muddled, so readers are not entirely sure how she came to her positions, and some of the characterizations are unclear, but Joni’s first-person voice is fresh and true. As always, Haas knows her horses, and she explores the issue of animal rights with sensitivity to both sides. A satisfying read. (Fiction. 8-12)
School Library Journal (March 1, 2018)
Gr 4-6-Twelve-year-old Joni lives on a sheep farm with her family and her spirited horse, Archie. Joni’s family lives a simple life, shearing sheep, making cheese, and taking care of their farm. Joni often feels left out, even at horse camp. When Chess moves in next door, it seems like Joni will have a built-in friend. Chess, however, is different from anyone Joni has ever known: Chess is a vegan and an animal rights activist. When she questions Joni about eating cheese, whether the sheep are happy, or if Archie wants to be ridden, Joni must think about things in an entirely new way. When Chess releases a neighbor’s miniature horses, one of the horses becomes injured. Joni has to decide how to stand up to her new friend and still maintain the friendship. Haas is an expert on all things horse and farm, bringing authenticity and informative details to her novels. Joni is a relatable character, and the themes around animal rights and sustainable farming are timely. –Terry Ann Lawler, Burton Barr Library, Phoenix
About the Author
Jessie Haas has written over 35 books for children and adults, many about horses–a lifelong passion. She currently owns a Morgan mare, Robin, who is being clicker-trained to be a trail and pasture-dressage horse. She lives in a small, off-grid house in the woods with husband Michael J. Daley, two cats and a dog. When not writing or riding or reading she likes to knit, cook, and write, or ride, or read.
Her website is www.jessiehaas.com
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