Dandi Daley Mackall follows up her Winnie the Horse Gentler and Starlight Animal Rescue books with a new series that takes its name and theme from the idea of the “backyard horses”—more or less, the opposite of show horses.
“You can find them in pastures or in backyards,” she says. “They may be farm horses, fun horses, or simply friends. Backyard horses are often plain and ordinary on the outside but frequently beautiful on the inside.
“If there’s one issue that seems to touch every person, it’s self esteem,” she continues. “I would love readers to realize that what God says about us is all that matters—not what other people think of us.”
Dandi, who has authored more than 400 books, says that writing about this issue comes from years of interacting with her readers—and years of interacting with God. “I write about things I’m going through at the time. I’ve tried writing about other things, other problems. But God always seems to bring me back to things He wants me to learn as I’m writing.”
While the series is primarily targeted toward girls and the main character, Ellie James, is a girl, Mackall sees a wider audience for the books. “Each book has a subplot involving Ellie’s best buddy, Colt, also a fourth grader. And most involve Ethan, Ellie’s second-grade brother. In fact, the second book in the series, Cowboy Colt, is all about the boy character.”
Ellie’s brother Ethan is another element of the series inspired by one of God’s gifts to Mackall. “Ethan is a wonderful character, who reminds me of our own hearing-impaired daughter.” Each chapter title includes the sign language letters of the word. “I think readers will like learning to sign a bit and to use finger-spelling.”