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The Girl Who Wanted to Fly Paperback – 4 Nov 2009
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The book describes the heroine's horse-riding, that starts off as a substitute for swimming as therapeutic exercise for Mo who has suffered serious damage in a no blame bike accident as a child, and gradually highlights issues of problem solving and tolerance, with a focus on the efforts of disabled individuals. Whereas on her first visit to the farm Mo is disgusted and feels threatened by the disabled , she learns to appreciate their extraordinary achievements, becomes physically and emotionally closer and gradually realizes that she too is empowered and changed by her determination to overcome her initial difficulties, accept the rigid discipline, and open up to new experiences . While the horse riding training is described in a most accurate manner, demonstrating the writer's obvious expertise in this field, it is never presented as an end in itself. It is a case of finding the right activity to engage the unhappy teenager, get her to invest in herself and accept authority, and indirectly improve her body image, self-confidence, coping skills and social skills.
The book succeeds in raising all these issues in a natural way, never moralizing and at all times gripping, and relevant to youngsters. The language and dilemmas are up to date, and the events never seem manipulated to illustrate a point, indeed the reflections and conclusions of the narrator Mo, sound authentic and convincing throughout.
This book should be in all school libraries, as even if horse riding is not the first or possible choice of all therapists or parents, it is definitely a very vivid example of an inventive solution to very common problems.
Highly recommended as summer reading or a Christmas gift this year for teenagers.
In time, it becomes apparent that Mo is actually quite bright, and it's not just her legs causing turbulence in her life. Rivlin paints a realistic people and places. If the dialog is a bit stilted, especially in the opening pages, she can be forgiven for what it shows about her characters. While Mo's rehabilitation (both physically and mentally) involves horses, they are not so present as to ruin the tale for the non-horse-lover. As a horse person, though, I found myself chuckling in delight at Rivlin's descriptions of barns and riding from a newcomer's perspective. As an American, I was surprised about the appearance of Western saddles in an English tale, and as a side-saddle rider, tickled by those passages as well.
I found the character Trish to be compelling as well. People's reactions to this girl with Down's Syndrome were disturbingly close to my own learning process about the condition. Mo's changing attitudes toward Trish were for me the most engrossing parts of the book. And somehow Rivlin pulled it off without once sounding preachy.
All in all, a very good read - teaching self-acceptance and tolerance without lecturing.
I read it initially because it had some sidesaddle in it, and discovered a whole new angle.
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