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Dancer

by Shelley Peterson

Dancer, a first novel for young adults by Shelley Peterson, is a horse story, a love story, and a fairytale all in one.

The central human character is 16-year-old Mousie James, who lives with her mother, Christine. The central equine character is Dancer, an amazing animal that Christine bought for Mousie after her father’s death two years earlier. Dancer, who was mangy and rebellious when they got him, has turned into an excellent jumper. As the story opens, Mousie is about to compete in the horse show at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto. After winning the competition, she is invited to perform for Queen Elizabeth during the next royal visit.

Meanwhile, a sinister character named Chad Smith has offered to buy Dancer for his unscrupulous, wealthy boss. When Mousie and her mom refuse to sell, Chad first tries to scare them and then tries to steal the horse. Through all this, Mousie’s schoolmate Sandy and his dad, Rory (who was Christine’s first love), do what they can to keep Dancer safe.

Throw in a foxhunt with Prince Charles, ghostly visits from Mousie’s dead father, and Christine and Rory’s romantic wedding, and the story seems a bit farfetched. It’s not real life, but it’s a fun read anyway. Dancer is full of adventure, excitement, glamour, and romance. We see Mousie riding a winning horse, outsmarting the bad guys, being given beautiful clothes and a trip to England, and dating the nicest boy in school. There are poignant moments, too. Mousie misses her dad, she and her mom can barely pay their bills, and Mousie doesn’t have many friends.

Shelley’s Peterson’s story – clearly a labour of love, and dedicated to her three children – is sure to please horse story fans. (There’s also a glossary of horse-related terminology for the uninitiated.) Although it is long, determined readers will find that the pages fly by as Dancer and Mousie take on one adventure after another.