LOCAL AUTHOR’S FIRST NOVEL ADDRESSES BULLYING & MORE
GREAT BARRINGTON, MA – June 12, 2018 - Bullying remains a topic of serious concern in many elementary and middle schools, and children of every age have been the target of bullies or have witnessed bullying. In her award-winning novel, Charley's Horse, storyteller Judith Shaw explores specific ways for her main character to cope with bullying, and even gain the upper hand without bullying back.
The novel is set in 1959, before the sexual revolution, the Vietnam War, cell phones, computers, or even cable TV. “I didn’t want to deal with all that,” Judith explained. “I wanted to tell a story about a pre-teen under pressure, reeling from the breakup of her family and sent away to camp to get her out of the house.” She's the odd girl out, made-to-order prey for the camp bully. “Bullying has been around for a long time,” says Judith. “It isn’t a product of the new millennium, and it figures largely in Charley’s Horse.”
Charley is an eleven-year-old girl who knows everything about horses—except how to ride. When her parents split up, she’s sent to a riding camp in Vermont, even though she’s never even sat on a horse. She expects it to be okay. She'll live with girls who love horses as much as she does, and she'll learn to ride. But her summer horse hates her, riding lessons scare her spitless, and a bully in her cabin sees her as an easy target. Eventually, she fends off bullying attacks, finds help in unexpected places, and makes a few fast friends—including Birdie, the only African-American girl at camp, and Yellow Dog, a mischievous Labrador Retriever who prefers horses to humans. She spends the summer learning to hold her own against the bully, and in the end, allows her sense of humor and her heart to solve her problems.
Along with bullies, Charley also learns to manage her fear - a little talked-about facet of life with horses. “In all my years of riding, fear was like a four-letter word in a convent,” said Judith. “It was never mentioned. Was I the only one who was ever afraid of being run away with or bucked off? I don’t think so. I was determined to bring fear into the open with this novel.”
Chosen as Runner Up for the 2018 Maxi Award Young Adult Novel, Charley's Horse follows a young girl's journey through bullying, isolation, and trials of courage. It explores the chasm between dreams and reality, overcoming fear and insecurity, and finding a way to stay true to one’s self. It's also about horses and riding, from an author who spent twenty-five years doing nothing but.
About the Author
A native New Yorker, Judith Shaw has lived in Berkshire County, MA for over 20 years; the first 17 on a hay farm in Richmond, where she was a long-time contributor to the Richmond Record. She is married to an Aussie and raised two children in Indonesia, Singapore, and the Blue Mountains west of Sydney, Australia. She has a deep love of animals and feels an almost psychic connection with dogs, horses, and, on one striking occasion, a pet python. When a riding accident ended her active involvement with horses, Judith focused on her other lifelong passion: writing. After decades as an editor and journalist, she began to explore fiction. Charley’s Horse is her first novel.
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(press release sent to WSBS from Judith Shaw for online and on-air use)