Title: Runaway (Starlight Animal Rescue #1)
Author: Dandi Daley Mackall
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers (September 2008)
Genre: Childrens/Young Adult/Christian
Edition: ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) - Many thanks to Vicky, who included me in this WildCard Tour even though it had already started. I posted the WildCard Tour information here, where you can read the first chapter. (Mad Dog is book #2 in the series)
Perfect for : Personal reading, Great gift book for child/young adult
In a nutshell: A gentle, charming book filled with learning opportunities, hope, faith, love and family. Once I picked this book up, I found it refreshing in its simplicity and it's faith-centered attitude. No pushy preaching here - but something a child/young adult/adult/parent can read and enjoy, while getting a sense of peace, happiness . . . and family. Dakota Brown has been from foster-home to foster-home, never fitting in, never staying long. She is brought to the Coolidges farm, where she meets a wonderful family who help her see that she might be able to be part of a family after all! It was great to watch Dakota make choices that affected both her and those around her. The families reactions always surprised her, as they put people above posessions. Throughout the book, choices are made, some good - some bad, and there are consequenses to help reinforce growth and learning.
From the Back Cover:
A new series by Dandi Daley Mackall, author of the best-selling "Winnie the Horse Gentler" series!
Starlight Animal Rescue: Where problem horses are trained and loved, where abandoned dogs become heroes, where stray cats become loyal companions. And where people with nowhere to fit in find a place to belong.
About Starlight #1: Runaway - I've run away seven times--never once to anything, just away from. Maybe that's why they call me a "runaway," and not a "run-to."
Meet 16-year-old Dakota Brown. She used to love all things "horse" until she lost everything, including hope. The minute she sets foot on her foster parents' farm--Starlight Animal Rescue--she plans her escape. But can an "impossible" horse named Blackfire and this quirky collection of animal lovers be the home she's always dreamed of?
Wherever we're going, I won't be staying. That much I can promise. I've run-away seven times - never once to anything, just away from. Maybe that's why they call me a "runaway" and not a "run-to."
This book is about Dakota Brown, a 15 year-old girl who has already been to seven different foster homes. Now she is being taken to the eighth foster-home by Ms. Bean, her social worker. From the get-go, Dakota is planning to run-away, and plans to enlist the help of Niel, another kid who has been lost in the foster-system for so long he plans to leave for good.
Dakota uses her list-book to help keep some sort of control of her life. The book lincludes many 10-Reasons Why . . . lists (Why I Don't Like. . . Why Horses are Better Than Cars . . . , etc).
Ms. Bean feels that Dakota might do better with a change of pace, so takes her to Nice, the small community where the Coolidges live on their farm Starlight Animal Rescue. Dr. Annie and Chester "Popeye" Coolidge are loving parents to both their natural son Hank, and two other foster-children Kat and Wes. Each memeber of the family has a significant impact on Dakota, helping to ultimately help her make the best choices for both herself, and the family.
Not everything in the story is perfect (which wouldn't be realistic). One member is fighting a serious illness, and one has ties to a troubled parent. Dakota makes many mistakes in her first two weeks (crashing Popeye's and Hank's truck, stealing money from the Pet Adoption canister), but through these mistakes, she learns valuable lessons and comes to learn that she has found people to care for, who love her for herself. Could this be the family she has secretly yearned for?
Characters: I encourage you to come meet the people who cheer for Dakota when she successfully gets her driver's permit (she admits never knowing a time when someone has cheered for her, what can I say - I felt like cheering as well), who help her learn to be part of a team, who teach her to be responsible and care for someone/something else (Blackfire the horse has a special transformation that is entirely thanks to Dakota). The characters, both human and animal, are wonderful. Each has a personality that is used by the author to help with growth within the family. I truely loved each character.
Story-Line: I think the story-line was great, especially considering the age group most likely to read the story, those around 9-12 or so years old. Kids will be able to relate to the characters' feelings and actions, even if they aren't a foster-child themselves. It will help kids to look at how their actions affect others, and that they can have a positive impact on people and animals through their choices and how they treat others.
Readability: This was a very easy-to-read story for all ages. Even though it is written as juvenile fiction, it is all-ages appropriate. It made me smile and walk with a lighter step.
Overall: A great book, written with a Christian influence (not over-powering, more inspiring and hope-filled). This is sure to be a favorite book/series for both kids and parents.
About the Author:
Dandi Daley Mackall has written about 400 books (for all ages), and has sold over 4 million copies. She is the best-selling author of the "Winnie the Horse Gentler" series, who has a cameo appearance in this book via emails helping Dakota deal with Blackfire.
She lives in Ohio with her family (husband, three kids, horses, dogs, cats). Visit her site here.