Rodeo Rocky is the second book in Jenny Oldfield's The Horses of Half Moon Ranch series targeting middle-grade girls. Oldfield reunites us with Kirstie Scott, the 13-year-old horse lover whose mother owns Half Moon Ranch. When the book opens, Kirstie is at the rodeo with her mother, best friend Lisa, and ranch hand Hadley, along with guests of the ranch.
Kirstie doesn't like the way animals are treated at the rodeo, and she is deeply affected by Rocky, a wild horse captured for use in the rodeo. The cowboys injure Rocky with spurs and an electric cattle prod, and when Kirstie protests, her mother impulsively buys the wild horse for $2,000, nearly breaking Half Moon Ranch with the expensive purchase. Kirstie is thrilled with her mother's decision, and despite Hadley and her brother Matt's insistence that the horse will never be broken, Kirstie earns Rocky's trust. However, events transpire that make Kirstie wonder if Rocky will ever be tamed.
I was worried about plot pacing, since the first book in the series, Wild Horses, unfolded slowly. (You can read my review here.) I needn't have worried because Oldfield pulled me in from the first page. There was a lot of action in Rodeo Rocky, from the opening rodeo scenes to an event toward the end that puts Kirstie in danger. I especially enjoyed the scenes in which Kirstie talks to her horses like they are people, showing tenderness and her connection to these creatures. As a young girl, I don't recall going through the "I-want-a-pony-in-my-backyard" stage. In fact, my first pony ride was a bit of a disaster! I think I was around 6 or 7--the saddle wasn't tightened right, the horse started walking, and the saddle slid around and underneath the horse with me holding on for dear life! After I closed Rodeo Rocky, though, I wondered how my husband would react to shouts of "I want a horse!" that weren't coming from our daughter. Hmm...
Anyway, as in Wild Horses, Kirstie is a good role model for young girls. She is responsible when it comes to caring for the horses, and she doesn't give up even though bonding with Rocky is hard work. There's no mention of boys and crushes, and Kirstie isn't all that concerned about her appearance. Just like most girls of her age, she's determined, impulsive, and not always mindful of her mother's orders. The only downside I could find in the book is that her mother doesn't scold her or ground her for disobeying in a situation in which she could have been seriously injured. Still, Rodeo Rocky is a wholesome read for young girls...and grown women who never gave up hoping for a horse in the backyard.
Disclosure: I received a free copy of Rodeo Rocky from Sourcebooks for review purposes.