Ages: 9-12

Merrimon Book Reviews

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Dream of Night
Dream of Night by Heather Henson
by Heather Henson

Jessalyn DiLima rescues horses.  She also fosters children.  As Jess gets older, she is not sure she has the energy anymore, but then again, how can she turn down  either the horse or the girl?  Dream of Night, a former race horse, is no longer the champion he once was.  Starving and near death, he has suffered years of abuse.  Despite his weakness, Night is a fighter, an angry, defiant fighter.  Shiloh has not had an easy life either.  When she is placed in Jessalyn's foster home, she is determined not to show any weakness.  She wants nothing to do with the horses on Jessalyn's farm.  With Jessalyn's calm, non-intrusive caring, will Night and Shiloh be able to put the past behind them and find a new life?  Can horse and girl find in each other the companions each so desperately needs? 

In DREAM OF NIGHT, Heather Henson brings together three different stories, giving each a distinct narrative voice.  The story alternates between these three points of view.  Sometimes one reinforces the other, giving depth to the other's story.  Other times, one story alternates provides different insights into caregiver and those under Jessalyn's care, allowing a reader to see the differences between them.  Heather Henson's narrative structure inspires a reader's imagination and is best suited for children able to handle a less direct plot line.  Heather Henson does an excellent job at developing similar themes between the narrative voices for younger readers.  Adults readers, of course, might find these more obvious.

Heather Henson deftly handles a difficult subject.  A story could easily tend towards sappiness or simplification, but the author avoids those pitfalls. 
Heather Henson creates believable characters.  Jessalyn knows when to step back and allow both horse and girl space.  Progress is not instantaneous nor the happy ending overdone.  Indeed, DREAM OF NIGHT is all the more satisfying for the author's ability to measure description, characterization and emotion.   Heather Henson does not gloss over the difficult, abusive situations experienced by Night or Shiloh, and yet DREAM OF NIGHT is a story of hope and renewal rather than one focused on violence or abuse.  A slight bit of humor adds a nice touch to this emotional story.  As such, the details are age appropriate. 

DREAM OF NIGHT is an excellent choice for the young and adult horse lover.  If as an adult, you still hold dear your past readings of Walter Farley, Marguerite Henry, etc., DREAM OF NIGHT is a must for the collection that will add a sense of newness and variety to those great classics.  For young readers, the same holds.  DREAM OF NIGHT is more realistic than Walter Farley's horse novels and appeals to the desire for variety for precisely that reason.  A horse lover just can't get enough of well written horse books, whether be more fantasy or more realistic! 

DREAM OF NIGHT would also make a good reading choice for those families who have adopted a rescue or special needs pet from a shelter or are thinking about doing so.  Whether or not one's own pet reacts like Night, Night's voice inspires a reader to think about an animal's needs and responses.  Of course, DREAM OF NIGHT would make an excellent gift for any friend involved in horse rescue, any other kind of animal rescue or shelter volunteer work.  Heather Henson does an excellent job at educating readers about the needs for animal rescue without sacrificing the story itself.  A reader does not sense that this book preaches at one, but rather, this reader feels DREAM OF NIGHT, like Jessalyn's approach, opens a door gently, bringing the reader into the world of the characters and instilling hope within.

Publisher: Atheneum (May 4, 2010)

Reviewed by Merrimon, Merrimon Book Reviews
Review Courtesy of Amazon Vine
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