Miranda and Starlight: (the Starlight Books, 1) Revised Editionby Janet Muirhead Hill, Pat Lehmkuhl (Illustrator)
It has been a long time since we've seen a series of
horse stories for children. Do you remember how you thrilled at books like Black
Beauty, the Black Stallion series, Marguerite Henry's King of the Wind, Justin
Morgan Had a Horse, Brighty of the Grand Canyon, and others, or Mary O'Hara's My
Friend Flicka and Thunderhead? The horse always has had a compelling attraction
for people of all ages and all parts of the world.
"Miranda and Starlight" is the first title in an engaging new series
of horse adventures for the young and young at heart. "Starlight's
Courage" is the second book in this series about a young stallion named
Starlight and the fiesty young girl who loves him. "Starlight,
Starbright" follows with a Spring 2003 publication date. "Starlight and
Moonbeam" is to be available as of Summer 2003. "Margot and White
Cloud" is to have a publication date of Fall/Winter 2003. And lastly, to
complete the series is "Shooting Star," available in Spring 2004. The
Starlight Series are high quality children's books that will appeal to horse
lovers of all ages and will be passed down and treasured for generations to
"Miranda and Starlight" is the first title in an engaging new series of horse adventures for the young and young at heart. "Starlight's Courage" is the second book in this series about a young stallion named Starlight and the fiesty young girl who loves him. "Starlight, Starbright" follows with a Spring 2003 publication date. "Starlight and Moonbeam" is to be available as of Summer 2003. "Margot and White Cloud" is to have a publication date of Fall/Winter 2003. And lastly, to complete the series is "Shooting Star," available in Spring 2004. The Starlight Series are high quality children's books that will appeal to horse lovers of all ages and will be passed down and treasured for generations to come.
Read an Excerpt
Excerpt from Miranda and Starlight (The Starlight Books, 1)
Miranda paused in the doorway of the fifth grade room to observe the first day of school bedlam. The teacher had arranged the desks into groups of four, two side by side, facing the other two. It made sort of a table with two people to a side. "Quad Pods," the teachers called them. Since their class was the smallest in the school with only eleven students, there were only three pods. Two were in the back half of the room near the bookshelves, and one was in the front, between the door and a circular table that had several chairs around it.
From the safety of the doorway where no one had yet noticed her, Miranda watched her classmates claim their territory in this new room. Two of the boys laughed over something hidden in a note book, while two others headed to a grouping of desks in the back of the room.
Lisa and Marie, two of the other four girls in her class, claimed the remaining quad pod along the back wall. Noticing a girl she'd never seen before, Miranda watched with fascination as she put her backpack on the desk across from Lisa.
"Oh, that seat's saved," Miranda heard Lisa tell the new girl. "There are four of us and we always sit together."
"But I got here before they did," the new girl said.
Miranda held her breath, wondering how long this new girl would hold her own against the "Magnificent Four," as Miranda sarcastically called the only other girls in her class.
"So?" Marie asked loudly. "I just told you we need all four desks. There're three empty ones over there."
Miranda watched the new girl shrug, pick up her backpack and move to the pod near the teacher's desk. She sat with her back to Miranda, across from a boy who was so engrossed in a book he didn't even look up.
Bet she feels as out of place as I did when I came here last spring, thought Miranda. Those snooty girls don't like new kids coming to their school.
"You gonna stand there all day?" demanded the familiar voice of Christopher Bergman, the class bully. "Either go in or get out of my way!"
Miranda stepped into the room and slid into the seat next to the new girl.
Now the only place left for Christopher was across from Miranda. She groaned and frowned at him as he sat down. Coming to school this morning had been bad enough, but sitting across from Chris was almost more than she could take. In the nine weeks Miranda had gone to Country View School before summer vacation, Chris had constantly teased and tormented her. That might not have been so bad if she had found other friends, but they were perfectly happy in groups they'd formed without her. Lisa and her friends had talked on and on about their horses and their private riding club. They'd assumed Miranda was just a city girl who didn't know how to ride.
If I just had a horse of my own, Miranda thought, I'd show them!
As the teacher passed out books to each student, Miranda stole a shy glance at the girl next to her. All she could see were the lovely curls that hung in waves to the desk top as the girl looked down at her own books. On a scrap of paper, Miranda scribbled, "Hi, I'm Miranda, what's your name?" She slipped it past the curtain of dark brown hair and waited. Delicate fingers pulled the note out of sight but the new girl didn't turn to face her. Miranda sighed.
"This book," Mrs. Penrose, the fifth grade teacher was saying, holding a small book aloft, "will be our first reading book. We will read several novels throughout the year, and study and discuss them."
Miranda picked up the book, "Julie of the Wolves," from the pile on her desk. From the cover, an Eskimo girl stared, looking as alone as Miranda felt. Miranda opened the book. A nudge to her elbow sent the book flying to the floor. As she picked it up, she met the frowning face and hard blue eyes of Mrs. Penrose. Miranda smiled nervously at her teacher. When Mrs. Penrose looked away, Miranda turned to the new girl who pressed a note into her hand. Miranda spread the note open inside her book.
"I'm Laurie Langley. Do you want to come to my house after school?" the note said.
Miranda met her seat mate's soft brown eyes and smiled. A dimple flashed in Laurie's cheeks as she smiled back.
"Time for recess," called Mrs. Penrose. "Put your books away and line up behind Christopher at the door."
"Let's go to the office and use the phone," Miranda whispered after Mrs. Penrose dismissed the students and disappeared into her classroom, "I'll ask my grandma if I can go to your house."
When Miranda hung up the phone she faced the new girl with disappointment.
"I can't come today, Laurie. Grandma reminded me that Mom said she'd call tonight to see how my first day of school went. Mom thinks it's strange for school to start on a Wednesday," Miranda said as they reached the swings and claimed two empty ones.
"My mom said it's because Monday was Labor Day and the teachers needed Tuesday to get things ready. But where is your mother?" Laurie puzzled. "Did your grandma come to baby-sit while she's gone?"
Miranda drew a deep breath. Here we go again, she thought. She hated explaining her family situation to people.
"Mom's in California," Miranda began. "I'm living with my grandparents until she sends for me."
"That's a long way away! Has it been a long time since you've seen her?"
"It seems like it. I lived with her in Los Angeles for almost five years after we left here. She had a job with a modeling agency. She worked a lot and I had a nanny. But she got less and less work until she couldn't afford a nanny anymore, so she sent me back last March."
"Will she send for you soon?" Laurie asked in a troubled voice.
"I don't think so. Last I knew she had just moved in with some new roommates and was trying out for a part in a movie."
"Did you like living in Los Angeles?" Laurie asked.
"I liked my nanny," Miranda said. "But I missed Grandpa's farm. That's where I lived while Mom was going to modeling school. I don't care much for big cities, but I miss Mom."
"Do you want to go back and live with her?" Laurie asked.
"I don't know. I get all mixed up about it," Miranda said. "I'd rather she moved back here, but she loves the city. I think if Grandpa knew I'd be staying, he'd get another horse. He sold the one we had after I went to California."
"If a fairy suddenly came down and said you could have three wishes come true, what would they be?" Laurie asked.
"Well, ever since I came here at the end of March, I've wished for a friend," Miranda said, eyeing Laurie hopefully. "The other four girls in our class don't like me."
"I don't think they like me either," Laurie said. "But I'll be your friend.
You're so much nicer than they are."
A warm feeling spread through Miranda's body and she couldn't help smiling.
"Hey, maybe there is a fairy. My first wish came true already," she said with a giggle.
"Make your second one. Maybe it'll come true, too," urged Laurie.
Miranda decided to save her biggest wish for last.
"Well, I have one that even a fairy can't make come true. I wish I could have a real family with Mom and Dad and me all living together, close to Grandma and Grandpa."
"You told me about your mom, but where is your dad and what's he like?" asked Laurie.
"I don't know. I've never seen him and I don't even have a picture to see what he looks like. All I know is that Mom says I look a lot like him. He left before I was born."
"You don't even know where he lives?"
"No. I don't even know if he's alive."
"That must be awful," Laurie said. After a pause, she asked, "What is your third and final wish? Make it good Ocause I'm sure the fairy will grant this one."
"More than anything in the world, I want a horse of my very own!" Miranda exclaimed quickly. "If I just had a horse, nothing else would matter."
"I like horses, too, "said Laurie. "When we lived in Cincinnati, I took riding lessons."
"You lived in Cincinnati? Why did you move here?"
"After someone broke into our neighbor's house, Dad decided it was time to get out of the city. He wanted a safe place for me to grow up." "Do you like it here?"
"I miss my friends but now that I have you, it won't be so bad," Laurie replied. "Have you had riding lessons?"
"My grandpa taught me to ride when I was little, almost before I could walk.
He had a gray quarter-horse that I rode everyday"
"My dad said he'd buy me a horse next summer," said Laurie. "You can ride it if you don't have yours yet. If you're still here, that is." "I hope I have one, or I'll be the only girl in my class who doesn't," Miranda sighed.
Miranda tried to cover up the envy she heard in her own voice by giving her swing a big push and shouting, "Someday I'm going to own a thousand horses."
"Me, too." Laurie agreed. "Maybe we could own a horse ranch together."
"Let's pretend we do," Miranda said. "Let's pretend we have the biggest horse ranch in Montana."
"Yeah, right!" bellowed a voice behind them. "While you two are dreaming, I'll be riding a real horse of my own."
"Christopher Bergman! How dare you sneak up behind us? Stop trying to scare people! It's not funny."
"I wasn't trying to scare you. You were just too busy wishing you had horses to notice me," Chris said. "It's a good thing you don't have one, because you probably can't ride."
"Ha!" shouted Miranda. Her long ponytail swished against her cheek as she jumped off the swing and spun around to look into his freckled face.
"I've ridden horses a lot more than you have. I don't believe you have a horse."
"Well, I do," Chris said. "My dad just bought me one."
"Yeah, sure. I suppose you keep it in your apartment," Miranda said, knowing Chris lived in town above the general store that his father owned.
"Haven't you ever heard of a stable?" Chris sneered. "We're boarding him at Shady Hills and I ride him every weekend."
"Yeah, right, Chris," Miranda laughed. "I bet you don't know anything about horses."
"I do too! I bet you're scared of horses. Look at you. You're so skinny, you have to stand twice to make a shadow!"
"At least I'm not so fat I'd break a horse's back. I hope your dad got you a work horse," said Miranda, who was rather proud of her slender body. Christopher's eyes narrowed and his face turned red. Miranda feared for a moment that he was going to hit her.
"You're the one who doesn't know anything about horses," he shouted. "Your grandpa's nothing but a stupid dairy farmer who doesn't know a horse from a camel's butt. And your parents can't even take care of you, let alone buy you a horse."
Before she could stop herself, Miranda slammed her fist into his face.
"Yeoowww!" Chris screamed. "What did you do that for?"
His hand was covered with blood when he pulled it from his face. Blood streamed from his nose.
"Look what you did, Miranda!" Chris bellowed. "I'm going to tell Mrs. Evans!"
Miranda glanced at the teacher's assistant who was on recess duty. She was busy with some third grade boys who were fighting over the slide.
"Well, you shouldn't talk about my family like that," Miranda said, trying to hide her fear.
"Please, don't tell," Laurie pleaded for her new friend. "I'll get some tissues."
She ran toward the schoolhouse.
"Does it hurt a lot?" asked Miranda, staring in astonishment at the amount of blood on Chris's hands and face.
"You wish!" Chris said, angrily, blinking back tears. "You're not big enough to hurt me. Tell you what; I won't tell if you prove you're not scared of horses."
"How?" Miranda asked.
"By walking up to those two."
Miranda looked toward the field where Chris was pointing. Two horses were grazing near the school fence. She stared at the most beautiful jet black stallion she'd ever seen. He stood proudly, neck arched, as if standing guard over the lone mare grazing nearby. She'd only dreamed that such a creature could exist. She ran to the fence for a closer look. She could tell he was young, probably no more than two and not quite full grown, but his features were delicate and finely chiseled.
Ignoring the "No Trespassing" sign, she climbed over the high white board fence behind the cover of a tall cottonwood that stood in the corner of the playground and dropped into the field. Holding out her hand and talking softly, she approached the two horses. They pricked their ears forward and stared at her. Hesitantly, they walked forward. The pretty buckskin mare met her first and Miranda patted her soft muzzle and stroked her neck.
"I dare you to get on!" shouted Chris from the fence.
Scratching the mare's back, Miranda ignored Chris, walked past the mare and extended her right hand toward the stallion. He eyed her curiously and let her touch his nose. Working her hand up to his cheek bone, she scratched him gently. He didn't move but watched her, his eyes alert and nostrils flaring. Continuing to stroke his neck, she slowly moved to his left side and stroked his withers. She murmured softly, "You're prettier than any horse I ever dreamed of. I'm going to make you mine someday. We're meant to be together; I just know it!"
"Hurry up, Miranda. What's the matter? You scared?" Chris prompted. "I knew it! You can't ride."
The young stallion stood still as a statue. Gripping his mane with both hands, Miranda jumped, pulled herself up and clapped her right leg across his back. The young horse leaped into the air, like an arrow shot from a bow and dashed away. Landing flat on her back, Miranda couldn't get her breath.
She lay still, gasping. After running off a short distance, both horses circled back toward her as she rose shakily from the ground.
"Are you all right?" Laurie called from the fence.
Miranda nodded and walked toward the playground.
"See? I told you Miranda didn't know how to ride!" Chris exclaimed.
"I'd like to see you do any better!" Laurie said.
"Just watch, Chris. I'll show you how to ride a horse!" Miranda declared, turning around.
The buckskin mare stood quietly in a small dip in the ground as Miranda approached her again. Talking softly and scratching her neck, she moved to the mare's left side. Grasping her mane, Miranda jumped as high as she could, and pulled herself up. In a moment, thanks to the mare's patience,
Miranda straddled her. The mare still didn't move.
"Make it go!" shouted Christopher.
Nudging the horse with her knees, Miranda clucked softly. The mare started to walk and then to trot. Pressing her knee against the mare's right side, Miranda tried to guide her toward the school yard fence. The black horse had a different idea, however. Darting toward them, his head close to the ground and his ears back, he nipped at the buckskin's heels. The mare wheeled, burst into a gallop and headed straight across the field toward a large, white barn. With a death hold on the short mane, Miranda pulled back with all her might. But the stallion kept up the chase, and they went even faster. Miranda willed herself to stay on as she watched the ground blur beneath her. She faintly heard the clanging of a bell behind her, marking the end of recess.
From Miranda and Starlight (The Starlight Books, 1), by Janet Muirhead Hill, Pat Lehmkuhl (Illustrator). © August 2002 , Raven Publishing used by permission.
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