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Centaur Rising

Review

Centaur Rising

CENTAUR RISING is an illuminating tale about one girl's magical experience when a pony on her family farm gives birth to a centaur. Thirteen-year-old Arianne doesn't make much of the strange white light she sees during a Perseid meteor shower until she learns that Agora, an old farm pony, is mysteriously pregnant. What transpires is not only the most adorable red-headed and lightly freckled half boy-half pony, but also an immediate attraction between this liminal being and Robbie, Arianne's six-year-old disabled brother. Aside from Arianne and Robbie, a small contingent (which consists of Hannah, their mother; Martha. a long-time farm hand; and Dr. Herks, the farm's vet), are the only ones privy to this fantastical event. The questions that remain are whether or not they can keep the rapidly growing centaur secret from the other farm riders and boarders and how can they best train him. Yolen's latest fantasy includes a plethora of themes --- besides the love of horses --- such as divorce, physical disabilities and a special type of therapy.

CENTAUR RISING is a beautiful coming-of-age story that is undoubtedly earmarked to become a children's classic.

Multi-award winning author and mistress raconteur Jane Yolen once again spins a story that mixes fact with fantasy. As with much of her work, Yolen's storytelling strength lies within strong dynamic character development that is tightly woven into meticulously designed plots. Yolen's first person narrative is told through the eyes of Arianne. Smart as a whip and three-time spelling bee champion, Arianne loves all things magical. This is certainly an escape from her dysfunctional family life, as well as her reluctance to make friends for fear that they'll mock her defenseless brother. Robbie, who, while very intelligent, has significant birth defects due to thalidomide. Arianne's mother schools him at home since the children call him "seal child" because of his short arms and webbed fingers. Yolen incorporates a piece of dismal American history about this highly pernicious drug that was administered to women suffering from morning sickness during the 1960s. As she states, "the thalidomide effects soon became an international scandal as upward to 20,000 babies in 46 countries were born with deformities ranging from flipper-like arms and legs to twisted hands with fused fingers or no thumbs to children being born with no limbs at all."

 

Yolen's plot is replete with vividly poignant irony. Although Arianne's family is Quaker and they hold fast to their pacifist beliefs, their strongest defender is none other than Dr. Herks, an army man turned vet. And then there is Martha, who is more of a softie than her cynical persona portrays. Most notable is the human symbiotic and therapeutic relationship that develops between wheelchair-bound Robbie and Kai, the centaur. Yet amid the fierce relational strengths, the small farm troop confronts a handful of insurmountable problems. Yolen's combination of character development and ironic twists set within a 1960s framework (with plenty of references to the Vietnam War and time-appropriate TV shows and technology) that includes continuous scene changes and un-hackneyed conflicts, keep her narrative lively and riveting.

Reviewed by Anita Lock on October 28, 2014

Centaur Rising
by Jane Yolen

  • Publication Date: October 21, 2014
  • Genres: Fantasy, Fiction
  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
  • ISBN-10: 0805096647
  • ISBN-13: 9780805096644