The Secret Horses of Briar Hill

Brief Description: A young orphaned English girl confined to a sanatorium in the countryside sees winged horses through the mirrors. She is called on to help save the animals during World War II.

Geographical Setting: , ,

Historical Era:

Date Range: 1940s


Original Publication: 2018

Suitable for Grades: 2-7th

Target Audience: Chapter Book

Librarian's Review

I hadn’t thought of this book on my daughter’s shelf as historical fiction because it features a horse with large, Pegasus-like wings on its front cover.  But it is set against the backdrop of World War II, when young Emmaline is orphaned by a Blitz attack on her family’s bakery.  Her horrible vague memories of the aftermath are of the beloved work horses trapped in the barn by fire.  So when she moves to Briar Hill, a sanatorium in the British countryside for sick children, she feels a special affinity to the mysterious winged horses that only she can see reflected in the mirrors.

According to the author’s note, Emmaline’s sickness is based on tuberculosis, and the destruction of the family’s bakery is inspired by the 1941 Nottingham Blitz attack that destroyed the Co-op Bakery and killed 49 people.  Briar Hill is based on the many, many sanatoriums in the countryside that treated sick children, and the evacuation of London children to the countryside really did happen.  The author well captures the desperation of sick and dying children in the sanatorium, and Emmaline’s determination to help the injured horse hiding in the garden.

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