Starred Review. Grade 4?6?Equestrian Charlotte "Charley" Parkhurst had the will to overcome challenges and the courage to follow her dreams. In Pam Muñoz Ryan's fictionalized biography (Scholastic, 1998) set in the mid 1800s, Charlotte was raised in an orphanage, loved tending and riding the horses, and yearned for a ranch of her own one day. Banned from the stables, the 12-year-old ran away from the orphanage, disguised herself as a man, became a skilled stagecoach driver, and eventually was the first woman to cast a vote in the California presidential election. Listeners will admire Charley's grit and determination, refusing to give up her dream, even when she was seriously injured and blinded in one eye. Melissa Hughes's narration is superb. She uses her mellifluous voice well, switching easily from raspy Charley to several other male and female characters and employing different regional accents. After the story, Ryan provides additional historical information about Parkhurst's interesting life. Horse aficionados will appreciate the author's attention to detail in recreating the bustling activity of stable and ranch life, while others will enjoy the well-paced adventure and respect Charlotte's determination to meet life head on. A gem.
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