Book Review: Snow Foal by Susanna Bailey
A beautiful and heart-wrenching middle grade debut, this title is a memorable story, full of love, healing, friendship, and hope.
When eleven-year-old Addie goes to stay with a foster family on a remote Exmoor farm in the midst of a very cold winter, she is full of hurt, anger and a deep mistrust of everyone around her. But when she rescues a tiny wild foal from the moorland snow, Addie discovers that perhaps she’s not so alone after all.
And as adventure and unexpected friendship blossom, Addie is determined that both of them will know what it is to be home again soon…
Author Susanne Bailey delivers a warm, evocative debut set in the natural world that’s sure to inspire readers who are eager for an adventure story about the healing bond between humans and their animal friends.
Spoiler alert: the foal from the title doesn’t die. Hopefully that doesn’t actually somehow ruin this read for you, but for me, I was actually so worried throughout parts that the foal would indeed die that I had to skip ahead and skim to be sure it would be okay before I could go back and continue to enjoy the book.
This is a really lovely, warm, sad read. It’s the kind of book I would have read repeatedly as a kid. We meet Addie as she arrives at her new foster home. She’s sad, worried, confused, and definitely NOT going to be staying there long. Her mother will be ready to have her back soon. The foster parents are so kind and patient, with Addie, with their adopted son, and with the two other foster children currently staying there. I suspect this is maybe a best-case scenario all around about foster care—every person from social workers to foster parents is full of love, patience, and sympathy. But none of that matters to Addie, who just wants to go home. The only good thing about the place is the tiny foal separated from its mother, but it’s not like Addie can keep the foal. She and Jude, another foster child there, forge a connection together, and little Jude’s heartbreak over his situation is so moving and palpable. The thing about foster care is everything is temporary, even if it feels like forever to Addie. So even though their home is for kids who need to stay a long time, everything is in flux—Jude is about to be adopted, Sunni is waiting to see if she will return to her home, and Addie, who is well-loved and cared for, can’t bear the thought of staying there.
I don’t know anything about the foster care system or experience, so I can’t say if this feels accurate etc, but it does feel compassionate and provides an important representation, especially given more than 400,000 kids in the US are in the foster care system. The writing is lovely (and honestly, the book feels kind of “old-timey,” so every time they talked about cell phones or laptops, I was surprised) and even though so much of this story feels sad, so much of it is hopeful. Again, the overwhelming theme here is compassion—for the kids, for the foal, for the parents unable to care for their children, for everyone. I’m so glad I read this story and won’t soon forget Addie or her new friends.
Review copy (ARC) courtesy of the publisher
Publisher: Holiday House
Publication date: 11/29/2022
Age Range: 8 – 12 Years
Filed under: Book Reviews
About Amanda MacGregor
Amanda MacGregor works in an elementary library, loves dogs, and can be found on Twitter @CiteSomething.
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