Author Feature: Jodi Auborn
It is the summer before ninth grade, but fourteen-year-old Kat Normith has bigger things on her mind than high school. She loves living out in the country with her dad and younger brother, and she especially loves horses. Unfortunately, their neighbor is notorious for her mistreatment of her own horses, and Kat is determined to rescue her favorite horse Stormwind from her neighbor’s clutches. At the same time, Kat’s father has invited his young girlfriend to stay with them for the summer, and she is not all she seems. Kat is overwhelmed by the lies and deception surrounding her, and she decides to run away in order to help her father see the truth. This early young adult novel is a fit for readers who enjoy nature and horses, especially those with a passion for animal activism. Though the book gets off to a rocky start, it finds its strength in the descriptions of Kat’s travels through the woods on her way from upstate New York to Canada. Written much like a diary might unfold, readers are given a first-hand look into Kat’s feelings and experiences as she travels and overcomes obstacles along the way. Readers should be aware that there are mentions of both animal and human cruelty within the novel in case readers are sensitive to descriptions of those things. Many of the characters in the story exhibit impulsive behavior, but it is not always the youth who find themselves in this situation. As Kat comes into her own as a young woman, she discovers that adults are not infallible, and everyone must recognize their own shortcomings in order to find balance in their lives. This book is well suited to young adult readers who enjoy horses and adventures in the great outdoors.
It is the summer after fourth grade and ten-year-old Dylan and his family have been in the car for hours traveling from New York City to Salvation Point, Maine. Dylan’s father has inherited an old cabin from his uncle that is situated at the base of a lighthouse, and the cabin comes with more than just some old cobwebs and dusty knickknacks. The cabin is said to be haunted, and Dylan and his family discover the truth behind that rumor first-hand. As they navigate the mysterious events taking place around them, the family must simultaneously protect their land from villains who would choose to destroy it for their own personal gains. This fast-paced middle grade novel appears as a ghost story at first glance, but it is truly more of a human tale of redemption and self-discovery. Unlike a typical ghost story, there are few moments of shock or horror within the book; instead, Matthias is a fixture of the narrative almost from the very beginning. Dylan and his family do not have the same interactions with Matthias, but he is an important element in the transformation Dylan undergoes that summer. Because the chapters are long and the text is small and close together, this book is best suited to more confident middle grade readers. Scenes of action and a compelling relationship between Matthias and Dylan keep readers engaged throughout the book, and the well-rounded nature of the story is satisfying for all. Middle grade readers with an interest in human-centered tales that incorporate ghosts, pirate treasure, and more than a little excitement will appreciate getting to know Dylan and his adventures through this charming book.
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