||Novemer 10, 2010
"Heroes and Hounds" is a wonderfully charming story about a young girl's adventures with her pony and her friend as she seeks to fulfill her dream of riding "to the hounds" with the hunt. Although the story is written for young audiences, it has multi-generational appeal as it touches on such issues as the plight of families with parents in military service and the welfare of veterans. Anyone who loves horses, dogs and other animals will enjoy this book. The illustrations are beautiful and create a nostalgia of their own in their old-style look reminiscent of children's books decades ago.
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Heroes and Hounds
Heroes and Hounds
Carly is 11 years old and lives with her grandfather on a 200-acre Virginia farm while both parents serve in the military overseas. She loves the farm, and befriends all of the animals including a sneaky red fox that stalks her grandfather's prize chickens. Her best friend is her pony, Monroe, who shares her enthusiasm for adventure. Carly's constant dream is to ride with the Riverdale Hunt Club that passes through her grandfather's property.
On one particularly rainy Saturday, Carly watches from her front porch as the finely dressed ladies and gentlemen ride to the hounds. Later in the day, Carly finds out that a young hound named Hampton has become lost and Carly is determined to find him and by so doing endear herself to the hunt's Master; perhaps to be asked to ride Monroe in an upcoming meet. Carly enlists the help of her friend, Freddie, but the adventure is just beginning. Carly, Monroe, Hampton and the red fox have no idea what dangers await them.
Hampton was cold and tired. He had run for miles and miles. Sometimes in a straight line. Sometimes in circles. No matter how far or how fast he ran he seemed to get nowhere. At least nowhere that he could recognize. All the fields and streams, bushes, trees and hills looked the same. And none of the smells he followed along the way led him where he wanted so badly to go. Home. How nice it would be to sleep in his own kennel. Dry and warm. There was comfort in the company of the other hounds. A nice meal and fresh water would be waiting for him. For now, that seemed a lifetime away as Hampton loped down a fresh trail. As he trotted along, he noticed that something was different. The landscape was changing. He was confused by sights and sounds he hadn't seen or heard during his short time on Earth. The soft grass of the meadows turned into hard cement. Where the tall trees once stood there were houses and stores. Buildings of all shapes, sizes and colors. And there were cars. Lots of cars. Humans scurried about. Some carried umbrellas. Others ran through the rain. No one noticed the cold, wet, lost hound.
I loved the easy, relaxed way in which this story is told. It took me back to the days when the pace of life didn't seem as frantic as it often seems to be these days. Carly is a young girl with a huge heart and the best intentions. She is a normally obedient child who, we discover, has an inner core of steel and determination.
For me, Hammond steals the show. He's an amazing dog who somehow changes the lives of everyone. Clever and loyal, Hammond is the lynchpin that ties this story together in a most satisfactory manner.
At first, I really disliked Strange Willie. He's a hard man who's lived a hard, mostly solitary life, since returning from Vietnam. However, as the story unfolds; he plays an important role, while continuing to keep aloof from society. In many ways, his story is a reminder of how marginalized a whole generation of men have become due to the divisive sentiments and political quagmire of a very unpopular conflict known as the Vietnam War.
This book, written for a younger generation, will also appeal to a much older demographic. It's an engaging read that will linger in thought long after the last page has been read. It is beautifully illustrated and lyrically written. Parents who read this book to their children will find themselves easily drawn into the adventure, as well.
So many books for kids feel like they're trying too hard to use the cool "in" words, references to products and brands, or clever narrative styles and frankly, as a parent of three young kids, that all gets a little tiresome.
This book was a welcome retreat back to the books I loved as a kid: Old Yeller, Where the Red Fern Grows, The Yearling, the Little House books. It's a simply told, classic adventure story about an unlikely hero and a young hound. The author clearly knows the fox-hunting world and gets the details right. Step back in time with this enjoyable book! The fact that the book has chapters from the hound's point-of-view is also a bonus!
"Heroes and Hounds" is a grand adventure novel by Bill Miller. Although it can be read alone by kids ready for chapter books, I can see myself reading it to my 4 year-old granddaughter and her cousin. The book has everything a child can relate to and enjoy: a loving Grandpa (Oakley); a kind of creepy person from the community who is not really creepy, the vet, Willy; and the funny, adventurous, animal-loving heroine, Carly. When Carly's favorite of the hounds gets lost on his first hunt, Carly sets out to find Hampton. She has a lot to learn about the countryside when she is off the grounds of her grandfather's farm. She is a willing learner. She is spunky without being a brat. She is much-loved though her parents are off to war. I found the attitudes of the characters to be positive reinforcement of strong values while telling a tale interesting to children.
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