By Author / Illustrator
Firefly Press Ltd
Paperback / softback
Austria 1945. After losing his family, Jakob shelters with Spanish Riding School groom Herr Engel at a remote country stables where they are hiding the precious Lipizzaner stallions the Nazis wants to steal. When a German officer comes looking for Jakob and finds the horses, Jakob and his guardian know they must get the stallions to safety, but the only way is straight through enemy territory. Joined by Kizzy, an orphan Roma girl, the three must guide the horses across the perilous Austrian mountains. Will they reach safety, and what will be waiting for them on the other side?
I read this book in one sitting which should tell you all you need to know. It starts with suspense 'If Jakob sneezed, he could die.' And then carries on in that vein throughout the book; it really is one you can't put down and the beautiful cover by Anne Glenn seems to capture the essence of the book perfectly. Jakob is Jewish and hiding out helping in rural stables looking after the world-famous Lipizzaner horses. The year is 1945 so Herr Engel is taking a huge risk by hiding him. Then the horses are put in danger, both from a German officer and gathering hungry refugees. Jakob and Herr Engel must make the perilous journey to get the horses to safety as well as keep themselves safe. They are joined by Kizzy, a Roma girl who is in just as much danger as Jakob. This is a real adventure story, fast paced and exciting, taking a different slant from other World War II stories I have read. There is danger and suspense and the horrors of war come across clearly, but it is not so horrific that a slightly younger child, 9+, wouldn't be able to manage the content. A lot of the horror, bar a few passages, is implied rather than described and the main emotion is one of tension. At one point a real historical figure enters the story and this is handled particularly well. Some of the events are also real, such as the end of the war and dangers that were ever present by that time. This is skilfully interwoven with the fictional part and reading the note at the end was particularly interesting to see where the author had her idea for the story. This will be a useful addition to any Upper Key Stage 2 class covering World War II and also a popular choice for any child who enjoys horse stories. 240 pages / Ages 10+ / Reviewed by Jacqueline Harris, teacher.
Suggested Reading Age 9+