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When author Carrie Seim and her sister were growing up, they shared a love of horses. They collected model horses, read all of the horse books, and waited all year long for the equestrian events to broadcast on TV — at which point they would record them on VHS and spend the rest of the year watching the tapes over and over again. Finally, after a great deal of begging, their parents sent them to horse camp. “That’s where I discovered I was terribly allergic to real horses. This was pre-Claritin,” says Seim. “I was totally happy to be on a horse, but sneezing. My sister was allowed to continue horseback riding, but I was firmly planted in piano lessons.”
This wasn’t as crushing as it might sound. “I think most horse girls never have a real horse,” she notes. “It’s more about having a strong interior life.”
From then on, she would go to the riding school to watch her sister practice while doing her homework in the stands.
The experience planted the seed for her new book, “Horse Girl” (Penguin Workshop), out March 31, a middle-grade novel about horses, the awkwardness of adolescence, and finding your place in the world. Protagonist Willa is a seventh-grader who starts riding at Oakwood Riding Academy. But she’s new to riding, and the other girls — including Amara, self-proclaimed Queen of the #HorseGirls — aren’t exactly a welcoming bunch. Her rescue horse Clyde is there to show her how it’s done.
“Willa is unsure how to navigate the social situation while riding a horse. She’s a beginner and she’s falling in the mud, facing actual obstacles while also trying to deal with the mean girls,” says Seim. “The biggest message in the book is to not give up on your authentic self. If you’re feeling terribly lost or awkward or like you don’t fit in, trust that someday you will find a place where there are other people exactly like you . . . a place where people will embrace your ‘Welcome to the neighhhhhborhood’ T-shirts and model-horse collection, for example . . . I call it finding your ‘forever herd.’ And if you can’t find that place, I promise you’ll find a way to create it.”