In this tender if occasionally overdramatic novel, two-time Newbery Honor author Giff (Lily’s Crossing; Pictures of Hollis Woods) relates the analogous stories of a 12-year-old girl and a filly. Lidie moves from Brazil to New York to join her brother and horse trainer father, who had left their homeland years earlier. She knows little English, misses the horse she loved to ride and is angry that her well-meaning father and brother still treat her like a little girl (“They didn’t know me, not at all”). Lidie immediately bonds with Wild Girl, her father’s new horse, which she observes “had been born in the warmth of the South... and brought here to this cold world, just as I had.” There’s little subtlety in the parallels Giff draws between the two: Lidie’s late mother had called her “my wild girl” and, sensing the filly is lonesome, she thinks, “I knew how that was.” Yet readers will find Lidie a strong protagonist, her difficulty in adjusting to her new life credible and her eventual feeling of belonging—she finally feels at home when riding Wild Girl for the first time—gratifying. Ages 8–12. (Aug.)
Children's Literature - Jeanna Sciarrotta
Lidie has been waiting five long years to join her father and older brother, Rafael, in New York. When the time finally comes to pack up and leave her Aunt and Uncle in Brazil, Lidie has high expectations for what her American future will hold. None of these expectations, however, include a baby pink bedroom and a family that views her as the little girl she was when they left. Worst of all, they have no idea that she too shares the family passion for horses. America does not seem to hold the answer to all of her wishes and prayers, and life with her father and brother seems far from the homecoming that she imagined. Everything begins to change, however, when her father brings home a new horseappropriately named Wild Girland Lidie begins to find her niche in the family and is slowly able to open up the lines of communication and trust that seemed so closed before. Patricia Reilly Giff will not disappoint her fans with this newest addition to her collection, though the interest in the book will peak with a smaller selection of older elementary and middle school students who share Lidie's passion for horses. Reviewer: Jeanna Sciarrotta
School Library Journal
Gr 4–6—Patricia Reilly Giff has worked her magic by writing a story (Wendy Lamb Bks., 2009) of displacement with a new feel to it. Lidie, a 12-year-old who loves to ride horses, moves from Brazil to New York to be with her father, who runs a stable at a racetrack, and brother, who is training to be a jockey. At the same time, Wild Girl, a young filly, is moved away from the farm in South Carolina where she was foaled. While Lidie deals with the disorientation of moving to a cold world where she speaks very little of the language, she also has to cope with a father and brother who remember her as a seven-year-old child. The filly is equally upset by the move and is having trouble adapting to the new environment. Eventually the paths of Lidie and Wild Girl intertwine, opening new vistas for both of them. Giff has done a wonderful job of researching the world of horse trainers and racetracks as well as the Portuguese language and Brazilian culture. Justine Eyre's narration brings Lidie and her family to life. Her voice is nicely modulated and her characterizations are well done.—Laura Davies, Kenton County Public Library, KY
Five years ago, when she was seven, Lidie's mother died and her father and brother left to train racehorses in America without her. In Brazil Lidie could quarrel with her cantankerous uncle, sing in her aunt's colorful kitchen or gallop horses up and down the hills, but when she finally gets to America she can't find words to express her anger, longing and frustration. Her well-meaning brother has painted her new room candy pink and decorated it with baby pictures, which she hates, and her silent father buys a broken-down school horse to teach her to ride. At school her lack of English has mortifying consequences. Only in her father's unsettled filly, the aptly named Wild Girl, does she find a kindred spirit-and Lidie begins to think that if only she could ride Wild Girl, everything will be all right. As usual, Giff's characters are beautifully nuanced and entirely real, her prose is as streamlined and efficient as a galloping Thoroughbred and her quiet ending breaks your heart. A stakes winner. (Fiction. 8-14)
From the Publisher
Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews, July 15, 2009:
“Giff’s characters are beautifully nuanced and entirely real, her prose is as streamlined and efficient as a galloping Thoroughbred.”
Read an Excerpt
Sudden light burst against the foal's closed eyes. She needed to open them, and to get on her legs, which trembled under her. It was the only thing she knew, that struggle to stand.
And a feeling of warmth, the smell of warmth.
She opened her eyes and heaved herself up under that dark shape. Its head turned toward her, a soft muzzle, a nicker of sound.
Milk. Rich and hot.
She could see almost in a full circle. Another creature was nearby, its smell unpleasant, but she turned back to the mare.
When she was filled with milk, she leaned against the mare; she felt the swish of the mare's long tail against her face. She opened her mouth and felt the hair with her tongue.
My bedroom seemed bare without the horse pictures. Small holes from the thumbtacks zigzagged up and down the walls.
Tio Paulo would have a fit when he saw them.
Never mind Tio Paulo. I tucked the pictures carefully into my backpack. "You're going straight to America with me," I told them.
Everything was packed now, everything ready. I was more than ready, too, wearing stiff new jeans, a coral shirt--my favorite color--and a banana clip that held back my bundle of hair. My outfit had taken almost all the dinheiro I'd saved for my entire life.
"You look perfectly lovely," I said to myself in the mirror, then shook my head. "English, Lidie. Speak English." I started over. "You look very--" What was that miserable word anyway? Niece?
Who could think with Tio Paulo downstairs in the kitchen, pacing back and forth, calling up every two minutes, "You're going to miss the plane!"
I took a last look around at the peach bedspread, the striped curtains Titia Luisa and I had made, the books on the shelf under the window. But I had no time to think about it; there was something I wanted to do before I left.
I rushed downstairs, tiptoeing along the hall, past Tio Paulo in the kitchen, and stepping over Gato, the calico cat who was dozing in the doorway.
Out back, the field was covered with thorny flowers the color of tea, and high grass that whipped against my legs as I ran. I was late. Too bad for Tio Paulo. He'd have to drive more than his usual ten miles an hour.
I whistled, and Cavalo, the farmer's bay horse, whinnied. He trotted toward me, then stopped, waiting. I climbed to the top of the fence and cupped my fingers around his silky brown ears before I threw myself on his back.
"Go." I pressed my heels into his broad sides and held on to his thick mane.
We thundered down the cow path, stirring up dust. My banana clip came off, and my hair, let loose, was as thick as the forelocks on Cavalo's forehead.
We reached the blue house where we'd lived when Mamae was alive. I didn't have to pull on Cavalo's mane; he knew enough to stop.
The four of us had been there together: Mamae, my older brother, Rafael; my father; and me. And it was almost as if Mamae were still there in the high bed in her room, linking her thin fingers with mine. The three of you will still belong together, Lidie, you'll make it a family.
Shaking my head until my hair whipped into my face, I had held up my fingers: There are four of us, Mamae. Four.
I remembered her faint smile. Ai, only seven years old, but still you're just like your father, the Horseman.
Just like Pai.
Two weeks later, Mamae was gone, flown up to the clouds to watch over us from heaven, Titia Luisa said. And Pai and Rafael went off to America, leaving me with Titia Luisa and Tio Paulo. I still felt that flash of anger when I thought of their leaving without me.
I ran my fingers through Cavalo's mane. I'm going now, Mamae. Pai has begun to race horses at a farm in America, and there's room for me at last. Pai and Rafael have a house!
"Goodbye, blue house." The sound of my voice was loud in my ears. "Goodbye, dear Mamae."
Tio Paulo was outside in the truck now, blasting the horn for me.
"Pay no attention to him," I whispered to Cavalo.
Cavalo felt the pressure of my knees and my hands pulling gently on his mane, and turned.
We crossed the muddy rio, my feet raised away from the splashes of water, and climbed the slippery rocks, Cavalo's heels clanking against the stone.
In the distance, between his yelling and the horn blaring, Tio Paulo sounded desperate.
Suddenly I was feeling that desperation, too. We had to go all the way to Sao Paulo to catch the plane. But I was determined. Five minutes, no more. "Hurry," I told Cavalo.
Up ahead was the curved white fence that surrounded the lemon grove. The overhanging branches were old and gnarled, the leaves a little dusty, and the lemons still green.
Pai, my father, had held me up the day he'd left. His hair was dark, his teeth straight and white. "Pick a lemon for me, Lidie. I'll take it to America."
I'd reached up and up and pulled at the largest lemon I could find.
"When I send for you, you'll bring me another," he'd said.
What else was in that memory? Their suitcases on the porch steps, and I was sobbing, begging, "Take me, take me."
He'd scooped me up, my face crushed against his shirt, and his voice was choked. "This is the worst of all of it," he'd said. In back of him, Luisa was crying, and Tio banged his fist against the porch post.
But that was the last time I cried. After they left, I promised myself I'd never shed one more tear. Not for anyone.
From the Trade Paperback edition.