The Secret Horses of Briar Hill

The Secret Horses of Briar Hill

Book - 2016 | First edition.
Average Rating:
Rate this:
"Deserves a spot on the shelf next to the most beloved children's classics--yes, even The Secret Garden." -- Shelf Awareness , Starred Review

Described as "reminiscent of the Chronicles of Narnia " in a starred review, The Secret Horses of Briar Hill shows readers everywhere that there is color in our world --they just need to know where to look.

There are winged horses that live in the mirrors of Briar Hill hospital -- the mirrors that reflect the elegant rooms once home to a princess, now filled with sick children. Only Emmaline can see the creatures. It is her secret.

One morning, Emmaline climbs over the wall of the hospital's abandoned gardens and discovers something incredible: a white horse with a broken wing has left the mirror-world and entered her own.

The horse, named Foxfire, is hiding from a dark and sinister force--a Black Horse who hunts by colorless moonlight. If Emmaline is to keep him from finding her new friend, she must surround Foxfire with treasures of brilliant shades. But where can Emmaline find color in a world of gray?

A Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2016

" Endearing characters , metaphors for life and death, and a slow revelation of the horrors of war give this slim novel a surprising amount of heft."-- Booklist , Starred Review

"In clear, gripping, flawless prose . . . this exquisite, beautifully illustrated middle-grade novel explodes with raw anguish, magic and hope, and readers will clutch it to their chests and not want to let go."-- Shelf Awareness , Starred Review

"Reminiscent of the Chronicles of Narnia , Elizabeth Goudge, or a child's version of Life of Pi . . . . Readers will love this to pieces ." -- Kirkus Reviews , Starred Review

" Magical, terrifying, and full of heart. Open these pages, and ride true."--Newbery Honor-winning author Kathi Appelt

" A remarkable book. Astonishing! "--Michael Morpurgo, author of War Horse
Publisher: New York : Delacorte Books for Young Readers, [2016]
Edition: First edition.
Copyright Date: ©2016
ISBN: 9781101939758
Branch Call Number: J FIC Sheph
Characteristics: 228 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm
Additional Contributors: Burgess, Dan - Illustrator


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment

JCLMeganB Oct 19, 2017

Atmospheric, haunting, and deeply moving. This is a story perfect for chilly evenings in the sad heart of winter.

MissLauraStorytime Apr 26, 2017

Children and adults alike will be swept up in Emmaline's imagination as she undertakes the impossible task to save a winged horse from its foe. Are the winged horses that Emmaline sees only in her imagination, or do others at the hospital see them? Rich in metaphor, Sheperd's debut middle grade novel sets the bleakness of Emmaline's situation against the ultimately comforting world of her horses, and shows the power of the human will to survive in the most dire circumstances. Recommended for ages 10+.

AL_CATHERINE Dec 29, 2016

Fans of The War that Saved My Life should definitely give this a try! This is a sweet, beautifully written story about finding magic and hope even in the darkest of times.

Dec 19, 2016

This slim volume, set in a children's hospital during WWII, has a timeless feeling about it (caused in part by the period setting, but in greater part because of the children's isolation from the outside world, I think) that is reminiscent of classics of the children's canon like Burnett's 'The Secret Garden'. Shepherd is a bit heavy-handed with her metaphors, but I think that, to a child, this book would really resonate and have great emotional depth (and, indeed, it successfully managed to make this adult reader cry). If the novel lacks subtlety, it makes up for it with real emotion and the skillful use of an unreliable narrator. Best of all, it has a thoroughly ambiguous ending, making this a great conversation starter for young readers.

Oct 22, 2016

A beautifully crafted book written for a younger set. Through out the book there are illustrations that are gorgeous and enhance the story telling. The wording helps in creating a very strong visual picture. A sick girl sees horses in mirrors. Of course no one believes her, but she is determined to take care of one that ends up injured in her world. Although set during WW2, it's not boringly historical. Instead it uses the war as the backdrop to the situations Emmaline finds herself in. There is a steady climax that increases the tension in protecting the horses. Despite the clear conclusion its still left up to the reader to decide if the horses were real or not, but that just adds to the mysteriousness of it all. I delighted in the imagination yet reality the girl was ensnared in. The earnestness of her character made her quite likeable. The supporting characters growing in depth as the story progressed. The symbolism was a bit heavy throughout regarding mirrors. I still loved the end lesson: look a little harder.

Age Suitability

Add Age Suitability

There are no age suitabilities for this title yet.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number


Subject Headings


Find it at VPL

To Top