The Wild Path

by Sarah R Baughman (Author)

The Wild Path
Reading Level: 4th – 5th Grade

The Line Tender meets The Secret Horses of Briar Hill in this hopeful, heartfelt story about one girl's search for legendary horses and her quest to piece her family back together.

Twelve-year-old Claire Barton doesn't like the "flutter feeling" that fills her chest when she worries about the future, but she knows what she loves: the land that's been in her family for three generations; her best friend Maya; her family's horses, Sunny and Sam; and her older brother Andy. That's why, with Andy recently sent to rehab and her parents planning to sell the horses, Claire's world feels like it might flutter to pieces. When Claire learns about equine therapy, she imagines a less lonely future that keeps her family together, brother and horses included. But, when she finds what seem to be mysterious wild horses in the woods behind her house, she realizes she has a bitmore company than she bargained for. With this new secret--and a little bit of luck--Claire will discover the beauty of change, the power of family, and the strength within herself.


Poignant with a gentle touch, Claire’s story brings in supportive adults while still acknowledging the complexities of life and people. Fans of Raina Telgemeier will fall for Claire’s mature determination and intelligence, and be moved by her heartrending and stirring story.

Copyright 2020 Booklist, LLC Used with permission.

Publishers Weekly

Sensitive 12-year-old Claire desperately misses her 18-year-old brother, Andy, who is in rehab to treat his addition to pain medication. Following her mother's job loss and the expenses from her brother's treatment, Claire is also determined to find a way for her family to keep their two beloved horses, and she sees winning the prize money from her school history fair as a way to save them. When she finds an old clipping about an accident involving horses and her family's Vermont farm, she connects it to the horses in the woods that only she can see. Baughman (The Light in the Lake) effectively portrays Claire's facility with and affection for her family's horses, but a fantastical subplot involving ghostly animals feels extraneous, distracting from the otherwise powerful narrative. In addition, a few metaphors, particularly the birds used to express Claire's anxieties ("The sparrows swirl and tumble and bump into one another as they fly"), feel repetitive. Claire's feelings, however, are authentically portrayed, and Baughman's novel offers a sensitive look at the ripple effects of addiction. Ages 8-12. Agent: Katie Grimm, Don Congdon Associates. (Sept.)

Copyright 2020 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

"A gorgeous, colorful fall setting, a mystery surrounding wild horses roaming the woods, and a sensitive representation of a family contending with addiction all add up to make this not only a magical story, but an important one."—Dusti Bowling, bestselling author of Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus and The Canyon's Edge
Sarah R Baughman
Sarah R. Baughman is a former middle and high school English teacher who now works as an educational consultant and author. She graduated from Grinnell College and the University of Michigan, then went on to teach English overseas in three different countries. After spending a number of years in rural northeastern Vermont, she recently moved back to Michigan with her husband and their two children.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication date
September 20, 2020
BISAC categories
JUV037000 - Juvenile Fiction | Fantasy & Magic
JUV024000 - Juvenile Fiction | Lifestyles | Country Life
JUV039040 - Juvenile Fiction | Social Themes | Drugs, Alcohol, Substance Abuse
JUV029010 - Juvenile Fiction | Nature & the Natural World | Environment
JUV039240 - Juvenile Fiction | Social Themes | Depression & Mental Illness
JUV002130 - Juvenile Fiction | Animals | Horses
Library of Congress categories
Brothers and sisters
Family life
New Hampshire
Drug addiction
Medical rehabilitation

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