For the love of horses, and Hawaii
By Jolie Jean Cotton
Special to The Advertiser
By Jolie Jean Cotton
"PHANTOM STALLION" Wild Horse Island series, by Terri Farley; Harper Collins; young readers, age 10 and older
Hawai'i is the backdrop for the ongoing Phantom Stallion stories, a series of books for young horse lovers that has sold more than one million copies.
Series author Terri Farley from Verdi, Nev., said she's been intrigued by Hawai'i's paniolo since the fourth grade when she read a one-line reference to them in her California history book.
"I've never stopped imagining vaqueros ... leading their horses down the gangplank to a whole new world. It still gives me chills," Farley said in an e-mail interview. "So, when I decided to end the original Phantom Stallion series at 24 books, I didn't hesitate. I just didn't know I'd fall in love with today's Hawai'i as well as the Hawai'i of the past."
Consequently, Farley is now writing her way through a 16-book "Wild Horse Island " series, under the umbrella of the original collection. The sixth book, "Sea Shadow," has just been released. The seventh, "Mistwalker," will be in stores next month.
Also next month, Farley plans to speak at the Children's Literature Hawai'i conference, set for June 26-28 at UH-Manoa.
Farley has been praised for the accuracy of horse information in her books. To research the new "Phantom Stallion — Wild Horse Island" series, Farley volunteered on the Big Island's Dahana Ranch in Waimea, staying for three weeks with the Nakoa family.
"Harry Nakoa is a master horseman and trainer. He's also deft at answering questions with stories and tolerant of me trying to 'job shadow' him while I scribbled in my notebook," Farley said. "(His wife) Kiyo and the kids — Ikena, Dustin, P.K. and Ku'uipo— helped with everything from the understood (rather than tourist handbook) definitions of Hawaiian words to animal lore, tree and flower names and food."
"Even more," Farley said, "they helped me dream up a fictional ranch family, which has one foot in the traditional world and one in the now."
Wild Horse Island's main characters are Darby Carter and her mustang Hoku.
Book Two, "The Shining Stallion" opens:
"The girl and horse stood nose to nose.
Trade winds swirled the scents of trees and cinnamon-red dirt around them. Truck tires crunched on the rough road to 'Iolani Ranch, a goat's bleat mixed with birdsong, and the harsh neigh of a stallion rung out from a distant pasture.
But the girl only noticed her horse's hay-sweet breath and the flick of her flattened ears. Darby smiled at Hoku's determination to win their stare-off."
Farley said, "At my last book-signing, I heard a father standing in line with his daughter tell a friend who happened by: 'Turn Indiana Jones into a girl who loves horses and put her adventures in Hawai'i — that's what they're about."
Farley added, "He pretty much has it" noting that her stories are a "combination of horses, adventure and suspense."
Jolie Jean Cotton is a Honolulu freelance writer. Her reviews of children's books appear here on the first Sunday of the month.