Cover image for Mary on horseback : three mountain stories
Mary on horseback : three mountain stories
Wells, Rosemary.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Dial Books for Young Readers, [1998]

Physical Description:
53 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm
Tells the stories of three families who were helped by the work of Mary Breckinridge, the first nurse to go into the Appalachian Mountains and give medical care to the isolated inhabitants. Includes an afterword with facts about Breckinridge and the Frontier Nursing Service she founded.
Reading Level:
660 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR LG 4.2 1.0 28328.

Reading Counts RC 3-5 5.5 3 Quiz: 19052 Guided reading level: Q.
Added Author:

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
RT37.B72 W44 1998 Juvenile Non-Fiction Open Shelf

On Order



When John's pa has his leg crushed riding timber down the tumbling streams to the mill, the granny woman can't help. If he loses his leg, the entire family will suffer because he won't be able to work. Luckily it's eastern Kentucky in the early years of this century, and Mary Breckinridge has arrived on horseback to help.

When a mountain man loses his wife, he takes his twin babies and young daughter Pearl, who has stopped talking, down the mountain to Wendover, the care facility that Mary Breckinridge established to provide medical services for people in 700 square-miles of wilderness.

When a young nurse from Scotland seeks adventure and a chance to use her nursing skills, she applies for a job with Mary and spends most of the rest of her life on horseback, following the mountain trails to provide vaccines, medicines, and care in the Frontier Nursing Service.

Here, through the skillfully told stories of three lives which were changed forever, a portrait of a courageous, self-assured, determined woman emerges. She is Mary Breckinridge, who through her pioneering Frontier Nursing Service, saved more lives than Clara Barton and Fl

Author Notes

Rosemary Wells was born in New York City on January 29, 1943. She studied at the Museum School in Boston. Without her degree, she left school at the age of 19 to get married. She began her career in publishing, working as an art editor and designer first at Allyn and Bacon and later at Macmillan Publishing.

She is an author and illustrator of over 60 books for children and young adults. Her first book was an illustrated edition of Gilbert and Sullivan's I Have a Song to Sing-O. Her other works include Martha's Birthday, The Fog Comes on Little Pig Feet, Unfortunately Harriet, Mary on Horseback, and Timothy Goes to School. She also created the characters of Max and Ruby, Noisy Nora, and Yoko, which are featured in some of her books. She has won numerous awards including a Children's Book Council Award for Noisy Nora in 1974, the Edgar Allan Poe award for two young adult books, Through the Looking Glass and When No One Was Looking, and the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for Shy Charles.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Gr. 3^-6. Three very poignant vignettes bring to life the true story of Mary Breckenridge, the unforgettable founder of the Frontier Nursing Service, which since 1925 has provided medical service to rural Appalachian Kentucky. Through the voice of a child whose father has been severely injured in a logging accident, the reader is introduced to the poverty-stricken conditions of the mountain people and to Mary, who after suffering great losses herself turned her grief into positive action, trekking around on horseback to deliver much needed help to these people. The next story is told by a nurse who came to help Mary and found herself immediately dispensing precious diphtheria serum to the children of the woods. The last story is told by a child who, after being grief stricken into silence by the death of her mother, eventually finds her voice through helping Mary and the other nurses. These are not happy stories, yet the hope that this incredible woman provided for all those she touched clearly affected many, many lives. These beautifully written stories will remain with the reader long after the book is closed; Wells has given much deserved honor to a true heroine. A brief afterword fills in the facts about Breckenridge and her nursing service. --Helen Rosenberg

School Library Journal Review

Gr 2-5-The practice of modern medicine was practically nonexistent in the Appalachian Mountains of Kentucky in the 1920s. Diphtheria, typhoid, and small pox ravaged the mountain dwellers' lives. Mary Breckinridge, herself a widow whose children had also died, decided to change things. This pioneering nurse-midwife who founded the Frontier Nursing Service is introduced through the eyes of three fictional characters whose lives are irrevocably changed by their encounters with her. Young John nearly faints at his first sight of a needle and syringe that are used to treat his injured father. Miss Ireland, an 18-year-old nurse from Scotland, braves the mountain wilderness at night to inoculate a young child. Pearl, her mamma's "ownliest sugarplum" retreats into a world of silence upon her mother's death until she is loved out of it by Mary and her nurses. Though each story is brief, Wells's realistic yet poetic prose perfectly captures the dichotomy of the majestic beauty of Appalachia and the harsh realities of mountain life. McCarty's evocative illustrations, based on photographs taken for the Frontier Nursing Service, are an ideal complement to the text. An afterword provides a brief biography of Breckinridge and information on the Frontier Nursing Service. This one's a gem.-Peggy Morgan, The Library Network, Southgate, MI (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Kentucky 1923p. 7
Mountain Medicinep. 11
Ireland of Scotlandp. 23
How Many Stars in my Crown?p. 39
Mary Breckinridgep. 51
Acknowledgmentsp. 55