This is a book review about the juvenile horse book White Ghost Summer By Shirley Rousseau Murphy, illustrated by Barbara McGee, Published by Viking Press in 1969.
Mother, Linda, Deb, Zee Zee, Melani, and Stuart live in the city and hate it. Mother is house-hunting for a new home for the family that is located outside of the city. One day she comes home and tells the family that she has found a house that the entire family will love. The house is still a city house but it is where the city ends and the ocean and a park begin. “From everywhere in the house you can hear the sea crashing on the beach and hear the gulls call as they wheeled after picnickers’ leavings.” Everyone gets a room of their own and it was perfect for the family. In addition, there was a separate apartment built under the house where Aunt Kelly would come to live.
Melani and the family dog, Jeffy got up early each morning and wandered through the park. They explored and saw the animals in the fields of the zoo. Some mornings Zee Zee joined them. Early one foggy morning, from her bedroom window, Melani saw a ghost horse in the mist. After telling Zee Zee about it, they kept it as their special secret. Soon though, they had to add mother to their secret because she saw the ghost horse from her bedroom window too.
Melani watched the people ride by on their horses and dreamed her dreams. She loved horses and for Melani’s twelfth birthday, she received a ticket for a riding lesson for each day of the summer. Mother thought that this was the best way to learn how to ride. Once Melani began her lessons, she advanced quickly. Soon she even began helping out around the stable, helped the younger children with their lessons, and had extra riding time on her favorite pony, Buttons.
While Melani was out riding Buttons through the park one day, he pulled one of his tricks and tossed Melani off his back and ran away. Melani and Zee Zee searched for Buttons and ended up finding the boy Will, his Arabian stallion, Ankar and several mares and their foals. They were in a hidden cave and pasture in the park where Will and his horses had lived for several years.
Due to a series of unfortunate incidents, Will had ended up an orphan with no home who had to hide his horses to keep them from being taken from him and sold. Sometimes while Will was at work, Ankar would get out of the pasture and this was how he had been seen on the beach as a ghost horse. Will was scared but glad to finally have someone to share his secrets with and the girls promised to tell no one.
Eventually though, mother and Aunt Kelly had to be told about Will and Aunt Kelly set about trying to find a solution for Will’s problems. Finally, at a horse show, Will and his Arabians, the stallion Ankar and the mares came into public to win several awards and to begin their new life at the stable where Melani had her riding lessons. But Melani was no longer just a little girl who had riding lessons, she was a part of the stable now and Buttons the pony was hers to keep.
This is a very good book by an excellent author. The entire family is fun and creative with their different interests but still a believable close-knit family. The horse-loving Melani is a character that the horse lover will want to emulate. She loved horses so much and sounds a lot like I was when I was twelve. I too read every horse book that I could get my hands on, I knew the points of the horse, knew the basics of how to take care of a horse and how to saddle one. I was “almost” ready when I finally got my first horse at twelve. I think Melani had more fun that I did but that just made the story more fun for me. It’s part of what made me dream my dreams about having a horse and the fun you can have with horses and friends. This author also has one other horse story that is just as good as this one called THE SAND PONIES. These books are out of print but can be easily found online at one of the used book sites through book finder.com or at eBay. A local used bookstore might also have a copy available. If you get a chance, pick up a copy and re-visit your childhood or introduce your daughter to a really good horse story.