Reviews /

Running With Horses

Authored by Jason Cockcroft
Illustrated by Jason Cockcroft
Published by Andersen Press

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Running with Horses: I read. I read a lot. I might not read as much as some, but I do read more than others. And every four years or so, I read a book that affects me deeply. These books would become my Desert Island books, should such a programme be made. I can’t always pinpoint why these books affect me. Is it the story? How the story is told? The characters? Sometimes, I don’t want to analyse the reasons, I just want to savour the emotional effects, to hold on to the characters, to relish the story, and to marvel at the writing. Cockcroft’s Running with Horses is such a book, and, as I am required to write a review, I will attempt to remain as objective as possible. I think I might fail.

Rabbit has witnessed, and is deeply affected by, the violent death of his father. He now lives with his mum. They move to the coast to start a new life together. Rabbit’s struggles with his traumatic past have rendered him, quite literally, speechless, and he wonders if he will ever feel normal again. Then he meets Joe, who becomes a friend: a friend he can trust; a friend that he wants to be with; a friend he can love, and a friend who also has a dangerous older brother, Billy. A brutish bully of a brother.

One day, Joe takes Rabbit to see a dead horse. But there is no dead horse. What they do discover is an imprisoned man. This discovery draws Rabbit into a perilous and criminal world.

Told in the first person, we are right inside Rabbit’s head. We experience his every waking thought, we face the same fears, we share the same truths, we experience with him the joy of seeing Joe’s smile, we question his every action, and we share his haunting dreams. The pages of the book turn with ease because we want to know what will happen to us, the reader, next.

Rabbit tells his story with a language that is infused with poetry and honesty: it is the most beautiful and hauntingly told story. Each sentence is crafted and shaped to perfection. Each word is chosen with the utmost care; each full stop is deftly placed. And every page is enhanced by illustrations that echo the menace and turmoil of Rabbit’s story.

Although this is a book that could and should just be read and savoured, it is also perfect for the KS3 exploration of the craft of writing.

In the Reading Corner: Jason Cockroft talks with Nikki Gamble about his first novel, We Are Wolves.