Monday, November 11, 2019

Book Club: Review of Four Historical Fiction Books by Mattie Richardson


This post contains affiliate links. For more information, please see my Terms of Use and Disclosure Policy page. Thank you.

Review: Author Mattie Richardson/Appaloosy Books
Product: Mattie Richardson's Horses in History Series

Our family had the privilege of reviewing four softcover books written by Mattie Richardson. Each of these books is set in a particular period of history and told from the viewpoint of one or more horses. They are written with 8- to 14-year-olds in mind but if your children enjoy history or horses, then younger or older children will also enjoy them. We also received a PDF copy of The Day and Night Enrichment Guide.

The four books we read are:
Book covers for Golden Sunrise, Appaloosy, Day and Night, and Dusty's Trail

Mattie Richardson wrote her first book, Appaloosy, at the age of thirteen. Appaloosy was published when she was sixteen. What an awesome start to a writing career! In addition to the four books we reviewed, Richardson has also written The Secret of Hemlock Forest (recommended for ages 12 and up) and Blackberry Blossom (suitable to teens and young adults). Currently, she is a full-time journalist and part-time musician.

Her passion is writing and sharing that passion with other young, inspiring writers. Richardson spends time speaking at schools and for groups of young writers to share her enthusiasm. 

Mattie Richardson

How Did We Use the Books in Our Homeschool? 

When our son and I talked about possibly reviewing the books by Mattie Richardson, he said he was interested in reading Golden Sunrise and Dusty's Trail so we started reading Golden Sunrise as a read aloud.

Book cover of Golden Sunrise

Golden Sunrise

The focus of the story Golden Sunrise is Jared and his horse Cheyenne and their involvement in the Texas fight for independence. From the Battle of Gonzalez and the famous cannon with the rallying cry "Come and Take It!" to the siege on the Alamo, the book is full of history to discuss and learn about with your children. Readers meet James Bowie, Davy Crockett, William B. Travis, Sam Houston, and Antonia Lopez de Santa Anna. 

I then read the other three books myself and thoroughly enjoyed reading each of them!

book cover of Day and Night

Day and Night 

While reading Golden Sunrise to our two younger children, I read Day and Night myself as I love reading about the Civil War. I love the fact that it is set in the Western Theater of the Civil War because there is already a plethora of books and information available for people who are interested in learning more about battle events in the Eastern Theater. 

four books by Mattie RichardsonTucker and Shiloh, the two horses who are central to the story, are brothers and Morgan horses. They are separated at the start of the Civil War as Casey sold his herd off. Tucker, the older brother, was sold first and ended up with Ben in the Union Army. Shiloh, remained first on Casey's farm, but was stolen at night to join the Confederate Army. In an early chapter, we read of an attempt to break Shiloh in a negative manner. I was very glad I wasn't reading this story aloud to my younger children and I even think those on the younger end of the suggested reading age would have a problem with the breaking of Shiloh. Fortunately for the younger horse, he was stolen again. And this time by a girl who would join the Confederate cavalry in disguise. 

I enjoyed reading Day and Night and even though Richardson moved around a few events and occurrences to help tell her story, the main historical facts were not greatly changed.

We also had the opportunity to review and/or use the Day and Night Enrichment Guide that accompanies Day and Night. The 98-page PDF is geared for 8- to 14-year-olds and can take approximately 8-12 weeks depending upon how much you choose to include in your homeschool day. There are 9 parts which include similar activities such as:

  • Reading Comprehension 
  • Vocabulary 
  • History
  • A Soldier's Life 
  • Geography
  • Horses and History 
  • Creating Your Own Stories
  • And more! 

We did not use the Enrichment Guide in our homeschool as the activities are too involved for our younger children and our teen has already studied the American Civil War. I enjoyed looking through it and anticipating using the Enrichment Guide in a few years with our younger two kids. I appreciate that the recommended resources for the advanced track include Battle Cry of Freedom by James McPherson and Shiloh by Shelby Foote. Two noted Civil War historians. Another feature I liked was the inclusion of bibliographies for both Northerners and Southerners like Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis. 

Part One Table of Contents for Day and Night Enrichment Guide

Appaloosy book cover


Next, I read Appaloosy. The story itself was 116 pages long. Before the story begins, the reader is presented with several Nez Perce words and their meanings. At the beginning of the story, Storm is living with his family free but not really free. The Nez Perce tribe actually owns the horses and comes to gather up the young horses. Storm eventually ended up with White Feather until after the failed march to freedom led by Chief Joseph. Storm becomes the property of different people and had to learn "The White Man's Ways."

I think the central focus of the story about Storm is his time with Faith. During a brief time, Storm was owned by Amos who treated his 'demon' horse cruelly. While under the ownership of Amos, Faith visited Storm regularly and slowly became Storm's friend, gaining the ability to ride him. She eventually purchased Storm and he came to live at Faith's parents' farm. The story doesn't end quite yet. There is more action including a daring escape on the part of Storm and other horses.

Dusty's Trail book cover

Dusty's Trail

Finally, I read Dusty's Trail. This book is the story of a horse, Dusty, an American Quarter Horse, who served on the Pony Express. We will be adding this to our pile of read-aloud books for our younger children as I think the story is exciting and they will enjoy it. There are some scenes that may be scary to them – Levi who rides Dusty for the Pony Express is captured by the Paiute Indians – but I think because this tale is shorter (67 pages long), they will really like it.

During the story, we meet Dusty who is afraid of loud noises and jumps at shadows. His ability to overcome being afraid is tested when the Paiute Indians attack Levi and Dusty. An Indian appeared right before the horse and rider and an arrow buried itself into Dusty's shoulder causing Dusty to stop suddenly. This threw Levi from the saddle. Instead of listening to his heart, Dusty listened to his head "Run! Run if you want to live!" and he ran from the attack.

During the next few days, Dusty is sad over the fact that he left Levi behind. He feels the other horses and the humans look down upon him for abandoning his human rider, Levi. He and another horse plot a daring plan to rescue Levi. The events leading up to the rescue are so exciting!

What Did We Think?

I really enjoyed reading all four books. They were a perfect length. I think each topic was very well developed and introduced a variety of exciting topics to discuss.

Even though I love history, I do not know a lot about the Pony Express. I was amazed to read in A Blast From The Past at the end of Dusty's Trail that the Pony Express only lasted from April 1860 to October 1861. It is so well-known today, I would have thought the horses were in service for a much longer time frame.

While reading Golden Sunrise, our children were eager to learn more about the famous individuals in the story – Davy, Crockett, Jim Bowie, and others – so we went to our library to find books about them and the time period. I love books that encourage our children to want to learn more.

In the end, I was surprised but I think that Dusty's Trail was my favorite of the four. I really thought that the Civil War story, Day and Night, would be my favorite. If you have read them, which one was your favorite?

While I thoroughly enjoyed reading all four books, please note that the age recommendations are pretty accurate. I would not recommend Day and Night for younger children as there is a scene in which one of the horses is being 'broken' by a rider but don't worry; Shiloh doesn't stay with this individual. I would also recommend holding off on letting younger children read or listen to Appaloosy as there are some sad scenes in the book.

I do recommend all four books for children of middle school age. I think they would be a great fit for inclusion in a U.S. History homeschool unit study. According to the Day and Night Enrichment Guide, there will be guides for the other books coming out by 2021. Making all four books a perfect addition for homeschooling families.

Would You Like to Learn More?

Don't forget to read the rest of the reviews so you can see how else you can use these four books in your homeschool!


  1. My older daughters are enjoying these books as we are reviewing them too! So fun.

  2. My 9 year old loves reading, I'm going to tell her about this set!

  3. My daughter loves horses! I’ll have to remember these for when she’s older.

  4. Thanks now I know what to read with my daughter who loves horses too.

  5. What a fun series for kids to learn about historical events!