Jakob is a Jewish boy, Kizzy a Roma girl. They are both orphans, victims of Nazi atrocities in Austria, in 1945. In addition to their orphan status, they both have in common a love for and skill with horses. Jakob’s guardian is Herr Engels, a Rider with the Lippizaner Riding School in Vienna who was ordered by the Director of the School to spirit Jakob and the stallions away from the city to a remote farm. When the Nazi soldiers come to look for Jakob and are unable to find him Major Bauer shoots one of the rare stallions in retaliation and threatens to return to do more damage.
Engels realises they must take the stallions to safety to the Director at his home in Sankt Martin, which entails a difficult and dangerous journey over the mountains and into Nazi territory. Along the way they are forced to cut one of the stallions loose and Kizzy tracks them to return the horse.
This is a story full of adventure and tension, bringing to life the terrifying reality of Nazi occupation-especially for those not considered part of Hitler’s grand plan. The growing friendship between Jakob and Kizzy is handled sensitively and when Herr Engels is injured on the journey they work together to bring him and the horses to safety. Attention to detail and research which is clearly meticulous brings the horses, the environment and its dangers to life.
When they reach Sankt Martin, the Americans are not far behind, liberating all in their path. The two youngsters have discovered that the Lippizaner mares, used for breeding the famous stallions, were taken by Hitler and are now in danger of being shot. The Director decides to put on a show for General Patton, himself a great lover of horses, to see if this will persuade the Americans to rescue the mares. This breaks another taboo-Kizzy, despite being a girl, is allowed to demonstrate her talents and ride in the show.1910080764
Ultimately, this is a story of hope, set against the grimness of Nazi occupation. It will appeal to those who love horses and adventure and who admire the courage under duress of those who are their own age.