A Hundred Horses

Book review by
Barbara Schultz, Common Sense Media
A Hundred Horses Book Poster Image
Magical, emotional adventure story great for tween girls.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Kids will learn about life on a farm, including chores, animal behavior, and the differences between city and country living.

Positive Messages

Nell learns that it's often better to look for what is there than to notice what is missing.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Liv and Rita are loving, open, and warm to Nell at a time when the young girl needs to connect. Angel shows Nell new ways of seeing her world.

Violence & Scariness

Nell's frightened by a galloping horse; she falls and hurts herself, but the horse doesn't touch her. Angel says she overheard adults talking about putting an animal to sleep.

Language

"Hell" is used once.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Sarah Lean's A Hundred Horses tells the story of 11-year-old Nell, whose mom sends her to live on her aunt's farm during a school break. There she has the expected city-girl-visits-the-country learning experiences, but also befriends Angel, an almost magical girl who radically alters Nell's worldview and her ability to trust. A couple of times there's an apparent threat of harm against a child or farm animal. There are also suspenseful chase scenes and one use of the word "hell," but nothing in this book would upset middle-graders, teens, or their parents. A Hundred Horses emphasizes a loving connection between humans and animals, and the ties that bind members of a family -- biological or otherwise.

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What's the story?

Before the events of A HUNDRED HORSES, 11-year-old Nell's father abandoned his wife and child. Now, Nell must attend afterschool classes (which she doesn't like) while mom Cathy works full-time. When Cathy must attend a work-related conference during a school break, she sends Nell to stay with Aunt Liv and younger cousins Gem and Alfie on their farm. There, city kid Nell meets pigs, chickens, and mud. Then she's almost trampled by a galloping horse, whose mysterious rider is involved in unexplained disappearances, and also with the legend of a hundred horses.

Is it any good?

To an adult, A Hundred Horses gets off to a slow, predictable start, with the troubled city girl sent to visit a farm where fresh air and hard work will set her straight. That happens, but there's also a lot of magic and mystery: Angel's story, the legend of the hundred horses, and the connection between humans and animals. As the plot and characters deepen, the story grows more beautiful and uplifting. This emotional book is a marvelous find, especially for girls who love horses.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Familes can talk about why books about horses are so popular, especially with girls. How is A Hundred Horses similar to or different from other horse books you've read?

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  • The theme of the city kid sent to the country -- or vice versa -- is a common one, usually with lots of life lessons. Has this happened to you, or to someone you know? How did things turn out?

  • How does Nell come to see things differently as the story unfolds? Do you find this change of viewpoint believable? Why or why not?

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For kids who love horses and magic

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