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Sundancer    by Shelley Peterson Amazon.com order for
Sundancer
by Shelley Peterson
Order:  USA  Can
Key Porter, 2006 (2006)
Paperback

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Thirteen-year-old Alberta 'Bird' Simms has not talked for seven years - the family doctor has diagnosed her as an elective mute. Unwanted by her mother Eva, she has lived for two years at Saddle Creek with her aunt Hannah. Bird has a very special abilty - she can communicate mentally with animals, and has long conversations with Hannah's aging dog Hector and with the Saddle Creek horses.

One day, at the urging of her veterinarian friend, Paul Daniels, Hannah takes on 'a sleek chestnut gelding' whose owner had decided was unmanageable and should be destroyed. Though he's like 'poetry in motion', he's also constant trouble. But Bird communicates with the horse (their mind to mind banter is fun) and calls him Sundancer. She even manages to ride him.

Then Bird's mother Eva calls to say she's coming for a visit with her new fiancÚ Randy and Bird's sister Julia. Ashamed of Bird, Eva tells Randy that she's Hannah's daughter. The fact that Bird can't articulate her hurt makes it worse. Both Bird and Sundancer act up in their own ways, but gradually both settle down, and the talented Sundancer begins to compete in shows, ridden by Bird. Then his previous owners claim him again.

Though much of the plot is the usual feel-good story about an abused, highly sensitive horse, there are villains here too, an element of mystery, and a young heroine (Abby Malone) from Shelley Peterson's previous books, who bonds with Bird and mentors her. And, though Eva's character turned around too abruptly to be credible, I enjoyed Sundancer, and the ways in which he and the mute young heroine helped each other.

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