Taking the Reins Review - Resource Links
Reviewed by: Myra Junyk
Fourteen-year old Katherine is bored with her life on a remote farm in British Columbia in the 1860's. After her family's tragic journey from England during which her older sister Susan died, Katherine is not about to lose her brother George. He has run off to search for gold in the Canadian wilderness, and Katherine dresses up as a boy in order to find him.
She finds George; however, she must face yet another challenge when she realizes that her beloved horse Nugget must be sold in order to save her destitute family. Otherwise, they will all starve to death! By a strange twist of fate, Katherine sells the horse to Mr. Roberts, a business-owner who gave the horse to Katherine so that she could look for her brother George. He gave her the horse in order to thank her for her sister Susan's actions. Susan saved the life of his brother's baby while the family was travelling to Canada.
Nugget is then bought for fourteen-year old Emma by her father. Emma works for British Columbia's Governor Douglas, but she is hoping to start a new life with her father on a homestead in the wilderness. She does not know how to ride. How will she be able to get to the new farm in the wilderness if she cannot ride? Her father tells her, "You will need a good, strong horse when we travel up to the interior next spring." (p. 69) By a strange twist of fate, Katherine and Emma meet and work together to teach Emma to ride. AT first, they are antagonistic, but their shared love of Nugget eventually leads them to friendship.
Dayle Campbell Gaetz has written over twenty books for young readers. She used two of her previous novels The Golden Rose (about Katherine's travels to British Columbia) and Living Freight (about Emma's journey to British Columbia on a bride ship) in order to answer the question, "What happens next?" for both girls. The relationship between the two girls and their horse is the focus of this novel. Katherine is an experienced rider while Emma must learn to ride. Katherine has a family which cares for her while Emma feels very much alone in the world since her mother died in Manchester, England. She came to Canada on a bride ship and ended up as a servant in the house of the Governor. However, she also found her father Tall Joe in the process. Readers will enjoy seeing how these two very different young ladies overcome their differences as Emma struggles to learn to ride. Readers who love horses and Canadian history will definitely enjoy this novel!
Thematic Links: horsemanship; British Columbia - History; Immigration; Family Relationships; Friendship; Grief