Running with the Horses by Alison Lester
Published by Puffin|Penguin Books
Date: 1 October 2019
There are some books that you move your hands over, admiring every inch and know there is something special about the book inside and out. The cover feels textural, the title and picture shimmering silver and already I adore this book and I haven’t even opened it. The anticipation of what is to be discovered inside almost overwhelms me, knowing it is going to be special and that Alison Lester will again delight readers with her ability to string words together so poetically.
The pages inside capture my attention just like the cover of the book, but it was when I finally read the words that I was immersed in the adventure where courage and friendship see Nina, her father, and Zelda safely arrive at their destination.
It has been ten years since the first edition of Running with the Horses was first published. This edition is in chapter book format which follows the story of Nina and Zelda and their escape over the Alps during World War II. Although Zelda is old and fragile, she keeps Nina safe through some dangerous situations on the journey.
Although this book is a work of fiction, it is inspired by the rescue of the Lipizzaner stallions from the Spanish riding school in Vienna during the second world war. I really appreciate that Alison has bought this story to life in a way that shares the reality of that time, doing so in a way that is readable for children age 7+.
I love that Nina believes in Zelda despite her being old and fragile. Nina saw value in Zelda and loved and nurtured her so that she could continue living a happy and safe life. Nina is a strong character and from the moment we meet Zelda you could see that their friendship is strongly bonded. As they were on their journey, I was curious to see how it would resolve and I read from beginning to end in one sitting. I feel honored to read this story and see how one courageous girl and her horse inspire children to believe in themselves.
The illustrations have been beautifully designed and there is so much emotion in each one. On page 8 we see the love between Nina and Zelda and it is so endearing and captures the emotion of the whole book. There are two other illustrations that captured me, the first being on pages 16/17 where Nina is lying on her bed choosing what she will take with her. This picture has the most colour in it which I find interesting given it is filled with emotion and is a time of change for Nina. On pages 68/69 again I was moved by the emotion filled picture of Nina and Zelda during one of the toughest points of the journey and looking at it you feel like they may not make it to their destination. Alison has captured the spirit of them both so beautifully through both illustration and words.
Even if you have the first edition, I highly recommend adding this second edition to your collection. Thank you, Alison Lester, for bringing us this story again in a different way.
Thank you Puffin/Penguin books for the opportunity to read and honestly review this book.