Antonia and the Big Competition by by Elisabeth Zöller, Brigitte Kolloch

Antonia and the Big Competition is the second book in the Rosenburg Riding Stables series. Originally written in German and translated into English, the series follows a 10 year old girl gifted with horses. The writing is simplistic, intended for a grade school audience, and admittedly lacks personality. I read this to my 10 year old and although it is a quick 100 page read, it also failed to capture her interest.

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Story: Antonia has a special bond with her two horses, Snow White and Elfin Dance. When she is invited to compete in a prestigious jumping competition with Elfin Dance, she worries she will be outclassed. Add in a jealous rival, and Antonia will need to find the courage to show her best – for a horse magazine wishes to do a story on her and the Rosenburg stables and a lot rides on how well she does.

The heart of the story is Antonia finding courage and strength in the face of the daunting competition and her trash-talking rival jumper. Friends and family come to the rescue but ultimately Antonia finds her own balance and is able to make a good show of herself. I liked that she doesn’t have to win the competition but an unexplained event at the end just dangled and was described as ‘luck’ when it likely was meant to be a moral story about mean girls.

The book has illustrations throughout (the cover is representative of the illustration style). Oddly enough, some of the illustrations didn’t represent what was written – e.g., Antonia describes how she carefully made herself up for the competition to represent her stable well, including braided hair. But the illustrations all show her with a ponytail.  My 10 year old daughter picked up on that immediately and it did create a dissonance.

The English is correct but also lacking flavor. This may be due to the translation from German but it does read more like a textbook version of a character rather than an actual person. So while my 10 year old read it, she admitted it did get boring and flat.  I also noticed the very distinct lack of personality in all the characters.

This is a 3.5 star book for me. Definitely not terrible but a rather flavorless translation and the odd disconnect between illustrations and story did detract a bit from my 10 year old’s enjoyment.

Reviewed from an ARC.

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