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Reviewed by Hilary Hawkes for Readers' Favorite
Tails of Sweetbrier by Deanie Humphrys-Dunne is an inspirational and true YA story. Deanie has cerebral palsy and her parents are told she will never be able to walk. But her father has other ideas and, after setting up Sweetbriers riding school, he sets about teaching his young daughter (and her two sisters) how to ride and jump and become prize winning riders. Deanie loves this challenge and begins to ride even before she eventually walks at age four. A wonderful partnership between her own horse, Peach, and herself develops as does the confidence and determination that sees the two of them achieving remarkable things.
Deanie Humphrys-Dunne’s story is one that will inspire young readers to hold on to their dreams and pursue them determinedly, regardless of any apparent setbacks. Beautifully, simply and honestly told, Tails of Sweetbrier is a delightful and uplifting story. I loved the inclusion of illustrations depicting the characters at various stages of the story. I couldn’t help thinking how lucky young Deanie was to have such a positive-thinking and enterprising father – her own determination and outlook so obviously influenced by the upbringing she experienced.
Young readers will fall in love with Little Man and Fleet Nancy (or Peach) – the lovely friendship that grows between Deanie and her four legged friends is conveyed in such a delightfully contagious way. My favorite part of the book is where Deanie and Peach tackle the Oxford Farm competition – they don’t win that day, but neither do they give up in the face of adverse weather conditions! With plenty of fun moments along the way too, Tails of Sweetbriers is an enjoyable book that will make you think, open your mind to possibilities, and challenge you to overcome obstacles or limited thinking.
The final chapter consists of the author’s ‘Pearls of Wisdom’: “Overcoming obstacles can give you the confidence to accomplish amazing things…You have the power to make your dreams come true so reach for them and don’t accept anything less!” The questions for readers at the end of the book make this an ideal story for prompting discussion about confidence and self-belief, as well as understanding others who may have greater difficulties than ourselves. Recommended.