Kids love a good horse book. Chancey of the Maury River by Gigi Amateau and published by Candlewick Press (2008) is a good one. It’s a refreshing read. It isn’t about a powerful horse winning races. It’s about courageous spirits winning hearts.

The book has 246 pages and is told from the horse’s point of view. The voice is keenly observant of human nature, poetic toward nature, and earthy in details. Very believable.

Chancey’s home is being sold, but no one wants to buy him. The old albino Appaloosa is sick and half blind after years of hard work in the stables. Finally left at a “last chance” farm, he has little hope. Eleven-year-old Claire, brokenhearted by her parents’ divorce, is put in charge of nursing him back to health. During this process, both their hearts are healed and wrapped in lasting bonds of friendship.

Claire’s mother buys Chancey. The two begin practicing to show together, but an accident in their first competition ends that dream. Instead, they pair up to work in a therapeutic school. There, people wounded in body or spirit can recover through caring for and riding horses. It is there that Chancey becomes the noble horse he’s always longed to be.

Chancey of the Maury River explores themes of illness, grief, courage, perseverance, learning, and the overarching power of love. There is a deep authenticity in the spirit of this horse that will resonate with middle school children, making them both cry and cheer.

Donna Fujimoto is a graduate of Alliance Theological Seminary. She has published both devotionals for adults and short stories for teens. Her children love to read.