Graphic Novel Review: Horse Trouble by Kristin Varner

Horse Trouble by Kristin Varner. First Second, 2021. 9781250225870. 288pp. including an author’s note, photos of Varner as a kid (including a few riding her horse), plus a few pages sharing sketches and her process for creating comics.

Twelve-year-old Kate hates being chubby and loves riding horses. She goes to school with her popular best friend Becky. Tuesdays and Saturdays she takes riding lessons at Millcreek Farm, where she also helps out to help pay for them. There are mean, unpleasant girls at both school and the barn, and Kate’s brother and his friends are jerks too. The fact that Kate keeps falling off horses as she’s training for competitions doesn’t help her self-esteem, either. The book is about her growing up a little, figuring out that she’s maybe somewhat cool (as is her brother), and that she’s more than a little awesome at riding, too.

My friend Marin has loved riding since she was a kid, and this book demystifies that for me. (My dad loved horses, too, but I’ve preferred motorcycles since my saddle came off an out-of-control horse running at full gallop on a beach.) This book has definitions of specialized vocabulary about horses and riding in “footnotes” that I found really helpful. I now know that the person who saddled the horse I fell off of probably wasn’t paying attention. That horse maybe have been bloating, which allowed the saddle to slip.

Worth noting: The drawings are charming, as is the use of red ink as an occasional accent color. I’ve read that it’s especially hard to draw horses well, and the horses in this book look spectacular, as do all of Kate’s falls and competitions.


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