Monday, June 13, 2011


By Becky Mushko

Book Review

Available from Cedar Creek Publishing. Phone: 800-431-1579.
Email: $15.00.
Also available through and other online distributors
Becky Mushko’s website:
Cedar Creek Author Page: Mushko.html

Reviewed By Linda Goodman

Eleven year old Jacie Addison barely has a chance to deal with an obnoxious classmate and grieve her dead mother when she finds out that her father plans to marry again and move to a rural part of the state that is hours from her friends and her home. Understandably, she feels stuck in a situation over which she has no control and makes plans to run away. What child wouldn’t harbor such feelings in this situation?

Three weeks in a summer horse camp give her a new motto in life: “go forward and believe in it.” As long as she uses this as her mantra, things seem to work out. She makes new friends, wins a blue ribbon, and develops a love for horses.

Such wisdom does not apply, however, where her new stepmother, Liz, is concerned. To Jacie, Liz is a wicked witch who is trying to take who mother’s place. To add insult to injury, Liz also has temporary responsibility for her bratty twin nephews, and Jacie has to watch over them while Liz works. Could a girl’s summer get any worse?

Time passes, however, and Jacie is a smart girl. She gradually realizes that she is not the only one who is stuck. In fact, almost everyone in her life is stuck, including a ghost that she meets in the woods near her new rural home on Smith Mountain Lake. Before life can go on, they must all “go forward and believe in it.” That is the only way that they will get unstuck.

While Mushko wrote this book for middle grade students, I found it to be an enjoyable read for adults, as well. A good portion of this book’s plot takes place at horse camp, and Mushko, a third generation owner of her family farm in Union Hall, Virginia, knows her way around a farm. I learned a great deal about horses from this read. As one who has never ridden a horse, I appreciated Mushko’s careful attention to detail as she chronicled the chores, anxieties, and joys of learning to care for and ride a horse.

Mushko wisely makes Callie, the ghost in this story, a mother who is in search of her child. Callie helps Jacie understand that, when a mother can no longer take care of her own child, that mother can be happy that a nurturing stepmother is willing to take over her duties.

A study and discussion guide at the end of this book lists questions for each chapter and assures a good understanding of the book’s themes for younger readers. Musko’s experience as a middle school, high school, and college level teacher are evident.

Blended families and those who have lost loved ones will readily identify with Jacie and her predicament. Jacie is a child we have all known. She is endearing and memorable. She makes us realize that it is indeed possible to “go forward and believe in it.

1 comment:

  1. I can identify with Jacie, as I was also one who found solace and escape through horses. From the time I was still in diapers, right through to today, I have been infatuated with the gentle giants. They have always brought me inspiration and a sense of purpose unlike anything else.
    I even went to horse camp for many years. :)
    Considering that I have recently lost my beloved parents, I can truly understand Jacie's emotional struggle. It can be devestatingly difficult to not become mired in the grief, loss and frustration of having the metaphorical rug ripped out from beneath one's feet.