I Rode a Horse of Milk White Jade

by Diane Lee Wilson

Reviewed by Margaret Donsbach

I Rode a Horse of Milk White Jade by Diane Lee Wilson Thirteenth-century Mongolia is the setting for I Rode a Horse of Milk White Jade. The early Mongolians were nomads who lived in felt tents, ate millet with butter and tea, and lived close to their horses. Many of their customs, like the purification ceremonies in which animals are driven between two fires, are exotic and fascinating. It's an exciting setting for a novel, and Oyuna is an exciting heroine, warm-hearted and courageous, with a mysterious understanding for animals.

As a child, Oyuna feels frustrated because she is kept inside the tent, away from horses. Her parents "were always thinking about my leg and what I couldn't do." She limps because a horse stepped on her foot when she was little, but she is determined to prove she can ride. Her greatest wish is to win the race at Karakorum where Mongolians gather each year to buy and sell horses. As she grows up, though, bad luck seems to follow her. Instead of racing at Karakorum, she finds herself on a long, dangerous journey across Mongolia, lured on by the thought of the "ten thousand white mares" her shaman grandmother tells her are grazing in the south.

The short opening chapters, in which Oyuna is an old woman telling her story to her granddaughter, may confuse readers because so much is hinted at without being said. It's worthwhile to keep reading, because the story quickly becomes more straightforward. The language stays poetic and vivid throughout. (1998; 232 pages, including a Glossary of Mongolian words and other unfamiliar terms at the end)

More about I Rode a Horse of Milk White Jade at Powell's Books or Amazon.com

Other YA novels featuring horses:

Black Horses for the King by Anne McCaffrey (1996), about a boy from a dishonored family in fifth-century Britain who interprets for Lord Artos when he buys horses for his warband. More info

Blood Red Horse by K.M. Grant (2005), about a thirteen-year-old boy who goes with his horse to fight for Richard the Lionheart during the Third Crusade; #1 in the De Granville trilogy. More info

Coal Black Horse by Robert Olmstead (2007), about a fourteen-year-old boy who rides a mysterious horse as he searches for his father after the Battle of Gettysburg. More info

Nonfiction about Mongolia:

Culture and Customs of Mongolia by Timothy Michael May (2008). More info

The Young Riders of Mongolia by Rob Waring (2007). More info

Horse Song: The Naadam of Mongolia by Ted and Besty Lewin (2008). More info


Mongolia's Horse Race Evokes Genghis Khan, a short clip by NPR at YouTube

Back to YA Novels: Medieval Times

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