Book Review: The Island Horse by Susan Hughes

Title: The Island Horse

Author: Susan Hughes

Page Count: 160

Publish Date: January 1, 2011

Publisher: Kids Can Press


It’s the early half of the 19th century in coastal Nova Scotia, and almost-ten-year-old Ellie is adjusting to the recent death of her mother. But just when she finally begins to feel happy again, Ellie and her father move to remote Sable Island, a tiny, windblown crescent of grass and sand in the Atlantic. While her father works, Ellie explores the island, feeling alone and furious with her pa for making them leave their beloved home. Even meeting a spirited island girl named Sarah does little to dispel her anger and grief. Then one afternoon, Ellie encounters a wild stallion grazing on the dunes, and slowly forges a secret connection with the beautiful horse she names Orchid. But Ellie soon learns that Orchid and his family are threatened, and it may be up to her to save them. Based on historical fact, this early chapter book is a touching exploration of loss and loneliness and the redemptive power of love and friendship.

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The Island Horse

My Review:

The publisher provided me with a copy of this book to review via NetGalley.

The Island Horse is a great story for horse lovers young and old alike. For those who grew up reading such books as the Misty series by Marguerite Henry or Black Stallion by Walter Farley, this book will be a good read to reminisce. It is also good for young readers who love horses and it also provides a look back in history as the book is set on Sable Island in the early 19th century. This is the kind of book I happily add to my TBR whenever I see one.

The story follows ten-year-old Ellie and her father as they make the journey from Nova Scotia to Sable Island so her father can have a job. Ellie dislikes the idea at first because she doesn’t want to leave her home, her friends, and more importantly her mother’s grave. Even the allure of seeing wild horses on the island doesn’t help. And so with little choice, she moves to the faraway island believing she will never be happy again.

Viewing Sable Island during the 1800s in this novel is a big part of the story. No technology, no vehicles, and everything is done using either man or horsepower. The island itself provides many challenges not only for those who live on it but also for ships that are passing by. Many ships have crashed near the island leaving people stranded in the rough seas and this often led to loss of life from both those on the ships and those trying to save them. With constant winds and sandy ground, little grows on the island, so most food has to be brought over. Ellie and her father must adapt to this new way of life in order to survive.

But the island does have some good things about it. Ellie makes friends with a local girl named Sarah. She also comes across a wild stallion one day while wandering the island during the hours her father is off working. Through daily visits Ellie gains the stallion’s trust and considers him a friend, she also gives him a name, Orchid. When the wild horse round-up comes Ellie must work together with Sarah to help keep Orchid and his family safe from the islanders.

It’s a story about loss, love, friendship, and finding strength. With a nice addition of some history of Sable Island and the struggles of living on the small and dangerous island, this book is an enjoyable read for those interested in history as well as horses. It also boasts some great artwork throughout the pages that adds a nice extra element to the story.

Have you read The Island Horse? What did you think of it?

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