Lone Wolf – Book 2 in the Oldenglen Series by Robin Mason

“Hunted. That was the sensation: the feeling of being hunted. Hunted down. Terror gripped his wolven side. But even the part of him that was human felt the loss of freedom. He felt suffocated.”

For Jackson, being a new student entering the seventh-grade at Bear Creek Valley Middle School in Ashland, Oregon is challenging. Even though English is the common language between the U.S. and England, he feels like an alien in this different land in the foothills of the mountains.

His summer was an adjustment learning to live with the wildlife in their remote home away from the small town. The magic of nature and this particular place developed into a friendship with the granddaughter of his nearest neighbor and landlord.

Making friends is always a little awkward for Jax. He is comfortable with animals, but teenagers can be a challenge for anyone. Also Jax is a little different. He spent his summer learning about his new habitat but people are a little more complex.

Noah observes Jax holding a wren on his finger in the middle of a group of girls. He states that he is saving the girls and throws the wren against a window.

Jax immediately verbally attacks Noah revealing a part of him that needs to stay hidden. Noah is much bigger and older and has friends who treat him like a leader.

Miraculously, after Jax holds the injured bird, it can fly away. Jax feels relieved. Noah, angry, calling Jax, a Freak. Is Noah jealous of Jax’s attention from the girls or did he see something that scared him?

Noah wants revenge. For what, saving a bird? Making him look bad in front of a bunch of girls?

Noah also is good friends with three other boys who like to bully other students. Four against one are not great odds for Jax. How can one seventh-grade boy fight four eighth-graders?

For tweens, having thirty-one chapters is perfect for young readers. Also unique about this series is that the books are boy-oriented. Most literature for this age-group is girl-based.

Lone Wolf is an excellent fantasy adventure for eight to twelve-year-olds. The story is appropriate for tweens with issues of bullying and an overlying theme of friendship. Learning the value of being one with nature and preserving the wildlife and their habitats is also a major component throughout this series.

While recommended for young readers, Lone Wolf has lessons for everyone of all ages.

Book Review – Smoky the Cowhorse

For those not familiar with “Smoky,” the tale follows a horse named Smoky, who was born on the range, wild and free. His first few years are spent frolicking along with his mother and other horses in his herd. From beating off aggressive, older horses to escaping from hungry wolves, Smoky has many experiences that help shape him as a horse, and make him a strong horse who knows how to survive.

Other than being captured as a youngster with the rest of the herd so all the foals can be branded with the Rocking R ranch’s mark, Smoky has no contact with humans until it is time for him to be “broke” and made into a proper cowpony. The “breaking” of the range horses is harsh and eventually wears Smoky down, so that he can be ridden, but only by Clint, the man who broke him and who rides/breaks all the young horses at the ranch. Clint and Smoky come to an understanding and while Smoky frequently bucks, and bucks so strongly that no other man can ride him, Clint likes the horse’s feistiness. Smoky also has uncanny cow skills and quickly proves invaluable to Clint and the Rocking R.

Every fall, after the annual roundup is complete, all the cowponies are set free to roam the range until spring. It is during one of these winters that Smoky and the band of horses he is with are stolen by someone from south of the border. Lost to the Rocking R, Smoky proves unrideable and is eventually sold to a rodeo outfit. It is here that Smoky is known as “The Cougar” – a bronc nobody can ride. While Clint searches for his beloved horse, Smoky goes through a series of careers and owners.

Smoky is a classic in the world of horse books and if you’re a fan of this genre, you really should read this book. There’s a reason it was made into a movie (twice) as well as a winner of the Newbery. The only caveat is that, because it was written by a true cowboy, back in the 20’s, it is both dated in the way the horses are handled, the way different people are treated, and the “cowboy speak” that uses mixed tenses, poor grammar, and misspellings (crethure for creature; eddication for education), that are frequent, but at least consistent. It takes a few chapters to get used to the unusual language, and if you stick with it, the reward will be well worth it. The story is interesting and will frequently pull at your heartstrings.

Quill says: A true classic that every horse lover should read.

Book Tells African Girl’s Story of Survival and Her Triumph in Her Struggle to Get an Education

A Long Way to School tells the fascinating life story of Seconde Nimenya, who grew up in Burundi, Africa in the 1970s.

Nimenya is the author of three other books, including Evolving Through Adversity, her award-winning memoir. A Long Way to School is her young readers edition of that book, rewritten to inspire middle and high school age readers to overcome the challenges in their own lives. Western students will discover not only how good they have it compared to people in the developing countries, but they will discover anything is possible when you are determined to succeed.

Seconde Nimenya’s story is one of relentless determination in the face of challenges and a constant desire to learn and rise above her circumstances, no matter the odds.

From her early life, Nimenya refused to give up. As an infant, she crawled into a fire when her mother left the room for just a minute. Her parents had to carry her to the nearest hospital, an hour away by car, but since they didn’t have a car, they did the trip on foot.

Whether it was dealing with poverty and not being able to afford the mere necessities, fighting to get an education, walking everywhere she went, or dealing with the bullies in school and in life, Nimenya never gave up. Her resilience through much adversity is what made her who she is and informed her mission in life.

A Long Way to School is the story of fulfilling a purpose to become educated despite the difficulties. Nimenya never even touched a book until she was in sixth grade.

I doubt any reader in North America has experienced the hardships Nimenya did in getting to school, but she was determined to succeed, and she did. Eventually, she married and moved to Canada and then to the United States. She went to college, and perhaps most amazing of all, the girl who didn’t even know what a book was as a child, grew up to be a writer. She is now the author of four books and plans to write many more.

A Long Way to School will open the eyes of anyone to the privileges we take for granted in public education in the United States. Nimenya states, “I believe education is the only solution that truly empowers communities and has the potential to end the cycle of poverty and violence.” Her commitment to education, the obstacles she overcame, and what she had been able to accomplish will be eye-opening and inspiring to young readers.

Nimenya’s message is one of hope and encouragement. She believes that with determination, people can always achieve their dreams. No matter how difficult the journey, she tells us to “Always be persistent, like I was, even though it was a long way to school because I knew when I got there, it would be worth it.”

A Long Way to School is a wonderful book for young readers everywhere. It would be a perfect reading assignment for history, social studies, and English classes. In addition to sharing her story, Nimenya shares some leadership insights, the “Ten Leadership Habits for Your Teen Years and Beyond,” for readers to develop. She also provides a set of “Reflection Questions” at the end so readers can apply the concepts and ideas they’ve learned to their own lives, helping them figure out their own purposes and the futures they want to create for themselves.

Seconde Nimenya’s writing style is easy to read, and suitable for young readers from middle school grade level to older readers. The cover suits the book well because it shows a little girl struggling to walk to school, when school was so far away from home-a literal and figurative image of what Nimenya’s life has been. Read what this young girl has endured, and you will understand how you can also make the best out of any situation through perseverance.

I highly recommend A Long Way to School.