Reading/Interest Level: Intermediate, Young Adult
Author: Nanci Turner Steveson
After Lizzie St. Clair’s father is imprisoned for embezzling, Lizzie and her mother are forced to give up their home. They move to a transitional housing shelter named Good Hope until they can get back on their feet. Lizzie is determined to stay invisible at her new school so no one will ask her about her father or her living situation. But one day, she discovers a nearby horse farm and instantly connects with a frightened young pony, whom she names Fire. She becomes a working student at the stable in order to be close to Fire, and she decides to save up the money to buy him. As she works to find opportunities to fulfill her impossible dream, Lizzie must open up to those around her, realizing along the way that everyone has their own problems, and that true strength lies in vulnerability.
Lizzie is a fantastic middle-grade protagonist. Her strength and determination in the face of true adversity is inspiring. As she progresses throughout the novel, she finds her voice and learns that even in the worst of circumstances, there is always reason for hope. The minor characters also show an impressive array of human depth, and the support and unconditional love they show Lizzie is beautiful and heartwarming. While Lizzie is determined to fly solo, over the course of the book she learns that ‘solo’ does not necessarily mean ‘alone.’ The book also broaches the important topic of homelessness, especially during childhood. This is a wonderful book to discuss in the classroom and is full of heartache, hard work, resilience, and love.