Book Review: Centaur Rising by Jane Yolen

By Awnali Mills

Centaur RisingIt’s the mid 1960s, and things are quiet on the Martin’s horse farm.  Then one night during a meteor shower, a strange light appears in the field, and the family learns that Arianne’s old pony is pregnant.  Soon, she gives birth to a strange cross between a man and a horse—a centaur.

The family is enthralled, but terrified at the same time.  Arianne’s younger brother, Robbie, is a thalidomide baby, also known as one of the “seal children,” who was deformed by the morning sickness drug given to his mother.  Robbie feels an instant, fierce connection to the centaur whom they name Ari.  In an effort to keep Ari safe, the family enlists the aid of the local vet, and quarantine the farm.

But the Martins can’t stop interacting with the world, and their secret cannot stay safe.  How can Ari survive contact with the outside world, and to what lengths will the family go to protect him?

I frequently enjoy books by Jane Yolen, so I was expecting a lot out of this book.  I was mildly disappointed.  While I found the concept intriguing, I felt that some of the situations were pretty implausible, or were badly explained.  Still, I might be overly picky.  I liked how the family pulled together and supported one another.  I particularly enjoyed Robbie’s character and how the entire family doesn’t treat him as a handicapped child but as a person with his own peculiarities, the same way they treat Martha, the stable hand, who is gruff and taciturn and needs to be approached cautiously.  Although it wasn’t my favorite book, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to kids who like mythology or horses.  Centaur Rising could also be given to people interesting in reading about kids with disabilities.

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