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7 February 2012

Review, Guestpost and Giveaway - Heroes and Hounds by Bill Miller

I'm thrilled to welcome Bill Mller here today.  I love both horses, hounds and nearly every fourlegged animal on the planet so I knew I would enjoy Bill's book. I was not disappointed.
Heroes and Hounds is a wonderfully charming story about a young girl’s adventures with her pony and her friend as she seeks to fulfill her dream of riding “to the hounds” with the hunt. Although the story is written for young audiences, it has multi-generational appeal as it touches on such issues as the plight of families with parents in military service and the welfare of veterans. Anyone who loves horses, dogs and other animals will enjoy this book. The illustrations are beautiful and create a nostalgia of their own in their old-style look reminiscent of children’s books decades ago.
Carly is 11 years old and lives with her grandfather on a 200-acre Virginia farm while both parents serve in the military overseas.  She loves the farm, and befriends all of the animals including a sneaky red fox that stalks her grandfather’s prize chickens. Her best friend is her pony, Monroe, who shares her enthusiasm for adventure.  Carly’s constant dream is to ride with the Riverdale Hunt Club that passes through her grandfather’s property.
On one particularly rainy Saturday, Carly watches from her front porch as the finely dressed ladies and gentlemen ride to the hounds.  Later in the day, Carly finds out that a young hound named Hampton has become lost and Carly is determined to find him and by so doing endear herself to the hunt’s Master; perhaps to be asked to ride Monroe in an upcoming meet.  Carly enlists the help of her friend, Freddie, but the adventure is just beginning.  Carly, Monroe, Hampton and the red fox have no idea what’s dangers await them.

My Review:

This delightful  story is full of excitement and action.  The main character, Carly, has all the characteristics of a typical eleven year old girl. She lives with her grandfather, 'Grandpa Oakley' while her parents are in the armed Forces.   Her  best friends are Freddie, a young lad of about the same age, Buster, her grandfather's cat, and her pony Monroe. Although she was brought up in the suburbs, she has quickly adapted to life on her grandfather's farm and loves living in the country.

The animals in this story are as important as the human characters.  They have their own personalities but are not 'humanised' and are written as 'real' animals.  Apart from Monroe, there is the foxhound, called Hampton and a wily red fox. The two become unlikely allies - and they and Carly and Freddie become unwittingly involved with an aging Vietnam veteran, 'Strange Willie' rumoured to be half mad and more than a little dangerous.  The story moves along at a fast pace, from the beginning of the adventure when Hampton becomes separated from the hunt, is injured and lost to the the thrilling climax when Freddie goes missing and suspicion falls on Strange Willie. Carly, riding Monroe, leads the search party in a desperate chase across country, and Strange Willie saves the hunt pack from a terrible fate.

Apart from being a really good adventure story, with animals and characters that children can easily relate to, there are some good lessons to be learnt along the way, like not making hasty judgements, and that honesty, friendship and loyalty are the things that are really important in life.  Altogether a delightful story which any animal loving youngster is likely to throughly enjoy. The beautiful and lifelike line drawings by Mary Burkhardt add even more to the story.

Buy the book at:
I asked Billl if the the animals in his story are based on real animals or purely imaginary?

This is what he has to say:

All of the animals, both four-legged and two-legged, are imaginary but based on friends I have know or met over the years.  I have been riding horses for over 50 years and have horses, dogs, cats and various other animals have shared their lives with me. I have been an honorary whipper-in with Norfolk Hunt Club for the last twenty years and in doing that job have gotten to know many of the hounds up-close and personal.   

So Hampton, the lead dog in the story, is an amalgam of many of the hounds I have known over the years. His personality really comes from a dog I got from the pound when I graduated from college a million years ago. He was a great dog, part Beagle, part unknown with a wonderful personality and great quirkiness. His portrait still adorns my living room wall. Much of his personality is reflected in Hampton’s inner thoughts. My little dog would do wonderful and unexpected things, had a vocabulary of over 100 words, and I had many people convinced the brown spot on his white back moved up and down according the temperature of the day.  I remember one day I was up on my brother-in-laws roof helping fix the TV antennae (anyone remember those).  I looked around and there was my dog up on the roof with us.  He had climbed the rung ladder two stories to join. I almost expected to see a tool belt strapped to his waist. Another time his foot was nicked by a car and he ran three blocks to the ocean to soak his foot.  I think that’s where I got the background for Hampton soaking his foot in mud. Another time we were driving off with two other dogs in the car. He jumped on the hood and starred us down.  He wouldn’t be left behind. So yes, the animals
are based on real life.           

Hampton sounds absolutely delightful, he must have been a real character.  I've had beagles in the past and I know what clever little dogs they are, full of personality. I laughed out loud when you said he climbed the ladder to join you on the roof and you almost expected to see him with his own toolbelt!
Thanks so much for being my guest today, Bill, I've really enjoyed learning more about you and 'Heroes and Hounds.'

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