Cover image for If wishes were horses
If wishes were horses
Kinsey-Warnock, Natalie.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Dutton Children's Books, [2000]

Physical Description:
131 pages ; 20 cm
During the summer of 1932 when Lily is twelve years old, she is granted her two greatest wishes, to be far from the sister who torments her and to have a horse of her own, but she does not expect either the tragic events that bring this about or their consequences.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR MG 5.2 3.0 44946.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Juvenile Fiction Childrens Area
X Juvenile Fiction Open Shelf

On Order



On a small Vermont farm in 1932, 12-year-old Lily constantly argues with her older sister, Emily. Into this combative atmosphere comes Great-Aunt Nell, who seems to understand both girls. But everything changes when in an act of revenge, Lily pushes Emily into a quarry. Soon afterward, Emily is diagnosed with polio and placed in an iron lung. Despite her intense sibling rivalry, Lily gives up what she most needs and loves -- her horse -- to help Emily, and by doing so makes a poignantly selfless gesture.

Author Notes

"I grew up on a dairy farm in a region known as Vermont's Northeast Kingdom, along with one sister and three brothers in an area our Scottish ancestors settled almost two hundred years ago.
"Since graduating from Johnson State College Vermont with majors in both art and athletic training, I have worked as a coach, trainer, energy auditor for the Extension Service, and mostrecently as Elderhostel Director and cross-country ski instructor at the Craftsbury Sports Center before turning to writing full-time.
"I have many passions. I am an athlete, naturalist, artist, and a writer, and all of the things I do are rooted in the Northeast Kingdom. I run five to ten miles each morning, cross-country ski, mountain bike, swim, and play tennis. I also played field hockey all across the country for many years. I love the outdoors, and study and sketch birds and wildflowers which are most often the subjects of my watercolor paintings. For the past seven years, my husband, Tom, and I have beenbuilding a timber-frame house. We both enjoy working with wood, and Tom shares my love of the land, sports and animals: we have a Morgan horse, five dogs, and eight cats. We lovegardening and have planted an orchard of old apple varieties. And I love histories and walking old cemeteries.
"My first children's book,  The Canada Geese Quilt , grew out of my love andadmiration for my grandmother, Helen Urie Rowell, and a special quilt the two of us made together. My grandmother began quilting when she was in her sixties, and over the next fifteen years she made over 230 quilts. I designed about twenty of them. Most of them are of birds,wildflowers and starry skies, but one is of Canada geese -- and that inspired the book.
"My husband and I live in Albany, Vermont, where I am always at work on new books."

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Gr. 3^-6. Twelve-year-old Lily longs for a horse, but it's 1932, the thick of the Great Depression, and there's no money. The arrival of brash, legendary Aunt Nell proves to be a bright distraction, and it looks as if Lily may get her horse after all. But when Lily's sister, Emily, contracts polio, all the money and energy is diverted to her survival. As Emily's condition worsens, Lily struggles to help her family, sacrificing the thing she's yearned for the most. The brief story has too many themes: depression, polio, euthanasia, and family obligation, and many of the characters seem undeveloped as a result. The language is also uneven, with beautifully articulated scenes alternating with melodrama. But the author captures the tenor of sibling rivalry well, and children, particularly horse fans, will connect with Lily's earnest desire to lessen her family's troubles. --Gillian Engberg

School Library Journal Review

Gr 5-7-In this somewhat contrived but engaging coming-of-age story set in rural Vermont in 1932, Lily, 12, relates events that are tragic, wonderful, and sometimes humorous. She has always felt that her parents favor her sister Emily. Lily has always wanted a horse; her sister wants a cat-and gets it. The unexpected arrival from India of Great-Aunt Nell provides both excitement and diversion, allowing Lily to eventually see both herself and her rivalry with her sister with new insight. When Emily contracts polio, she is placed in an iron lung but her condition worsens. Lily is then torn between resentment-Emily now gets more attention than ever-and fear and compassion for her sister. After seeing a diving-horse team at the circus, Lily practices in secret with a horse that she and Aunt Nell have rescued from abuse, and later devises an altruistic scheme. The characterizations and plot devices lack subtlety. Lily is the most fully realized character; the others are mainly types, and the author brings in intrigue, coincidence, derring-do, and even the hint of assisted suicide. Nevertheless, the first-person narrative flows gracefully between the present and the recent past. As the story progresses, Lily becomes less self-absorbed and more sensitive to the needs of others, and readers will identify with her frustration, sibling rivalry, and, ultimately, her pain at the loss of her sister.-Corinne Camarata, Port Washington Public Library, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.