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Calico Horses and the Patchwork Trail Paperback

By Loraine Turner

published by IDW Publishing, 2014

Reviewed by Dana Doerksen, Librarian at The Seattle Metaphysical Library

Calico Horses and the Patchwork Trail by Lorraine Turner is a coming of age tale about the interaction between a group of ten year old girls, their families and the natural kinship of human and animal. A very balanced look at the struggle of the wild mustangs of the Calico Mountains is presented. Through learning about the horses the girls learn about themselves and their shared journey. There is a definite spiritual thread that runs throughout the work.

The girls use their dreams, personal meditations, visions, art, and even the connection to the spirit of a beloved Grandmother and other ancestors to find their path and discover their connectedness. The girls learn to overcome divorce, death, bullying, and disappointment, while seeking out purpose and community. The girls come to understand that everyone and everything is inextricably linked, that "We Are One".

Lorraine Turner is an artist living in the Florida Keys. Her own dreams and meditations are depicted in the book. In fact, a vision of the Calico Mountains and the plight of the wild horses that live there was the inspiration for the writing of the book. The method of meditation Turner practices herself, Sae-sii Meditation, is outlined in the book and is used by the characters as a way to relax, solve problems and connect to Spirit. Turner provides a way for young readers to experience the message that she received in her meditations, to come to the understanding that we must work in balance with nature of which we are a part.

It is encouraging to read a book that is directed towards preteen girls about the importance of the balance, and an understanding of the unity, of nature. This book allows young readers to see the internal struggles of girls their own age and gives them some ways to think about and deal with their struggles. I appreciate that the novel does not try to explain away all the mysteries that surround us, but just accepts that they are there. The girls are involved in drawing and painting, horses and horsemanship, dog training, quilting, and camping which will especially appeal to the 8-13 year-old female reader.

The story begins in New Jersey with ten year-old Carrie discovering that her parents are getting divorced and that she and her mother are moving to Saddleback, Nevada. Until her mother finds a job, they are planning to stay at a Bed & Breakfast owned by her mother's friend, Sam. Carrie is having a difficult time with her parents' divorce and an even harder time leaving her best friend Shannon. When they arrive and start to adjust to their new lives, Carrie and her mother learn about the controversy surrounding the mustang roundups in the Calico Mountains and the mystery of the quilt squares appearing randomly all over the B&B and around the town. Soon Carrie meets Milla, a local girl of the same age who rescues a newborn foal outside her home, and the two are soon inseparable. Their parents decide to enroll them both in a summer camp that focuses on horses and art. Carrie and Milla share information with Shannon back in New Jersey about the quilts and horses that become a prominent part of Carrie's dreams and meditations. The three girls attempt to discover how the Calico Mountains, the plight of the mustangs, and the mysterious quilt squares are connected. By the end of the summer the girls realize that even as young as they are they can make a difference in the world. Shannon is quilting blankets for preemies in New Jersey and finds more volunteers for her project in Nevada and Carrie and Milla are working to help get the orphaned foals of the Calico Mountains adopted. Everything comes together like a patchwork quilt.

There are parts of the novel that I think might be unclear or confusing to a preteen reader. The book has a lot of young female characters that interact with one another and at times I found it difficult to tell them apart. I found that the connection with Shannon and her family in New Jersey to be a distraction to the main focus of the story. I thought the novel could have been a bit tighter with some editing of characters that didn't really appear to add to the story. For example, Carrie's pregnant Aunt in New Jersey or Shannon's mother's friend.

In general, Turner accomplished what she set out to do which was to bring the spiritual message of We Are One to a young audience through the conflict around the American wild horses of the Calico Mountains. While depicting many of the problems that young people often face, she demonstrates that not only can they be overcome, but that young people can use their talents to direct social and environmental action.