Friday, February 15, 2008

Riding Freedom by Pam Munoz Ryan

Charlotte lives on an orphanage in the mid-1800s. Her only friend has been adopted, and she knows she will never have that opportunity. Her one joy in life is horses, but she's been banned from the stables and blamed (wrongly) for a horse's death. She's been sentenced to kitchen work with Mrs. Boyle, the aptly named cook.

How far would you go to flee from this life?

Charlotte becomes a different person. With a haircut, some quick thinking, and a reliance on the education she received following the boys at the orphanage, Charlotte becomes Charley.

Charlotte exchanges her miserable life for one she creates for herself. After running away, Charley works for the stagecoach company, eventually becoming a driver. She gets a satisfying bit of revenge on Mr. Millshark, the overseer of the orphanage. Eventually Charley moves to California and purchases land. Charley votes. And in doing all this, Charlotte makes history, unbeknownst to all but a precious few who know her secret.

After the first two chapters detail the miserable conditions of Charlotte's life, readers understand why Charlotte feels she needs to run away. The following chapters are victory after victory, success after success, as Charlotte fights against the beliefs of her time and the threat of her secret becoming known.

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