Tween Book Review: Dirt by Denise Gosliner Orenstein

I have finally read a Denise Gosliner Orenstein book! This author has appeared on my TBR shelf for several years…several times! I was lucky to come across an ARC of her new novel, Dirt, during my library’s Book Buzz.

The cover is compelling with its pops of color and a horse…eating a shoe! I expected to find a funny novel about a misbehaving horse, but what I got was so much more.



After Yonder’s mother died, she stopped talking. Yonder retreated into herself and stopped really living. Her father is barely present and deals with his own grief through liquor. The other children at school bully Yonder mercilessly. When Yonder finds a mistreated Shetland pony, Dirt, she decides to take the animal in and show him kindness she doesn’t receive from others. Yonder and Dirt are on the same wavelength becoming fast friends. Soon a well-meaning social worker begins poking into Yonder’s home life, threatening the peace she has finally begun to find. Yonder must learn to stand up for her needs/wishes, and find ways to connect with the world around her.


I enjoyed this read. The connection between Dirt and Yonder was fun, heartwarming, and reaches out to any animal lover. This novel provided a realistic depiction of grief, without attempting to overly childproof the situation. Things can become messy when adults don’t act right or aren’t willing to actively listen. This novel provides hope to a seemingly hopeless situation, but doesn’t attempt to conveniently alter the situation to fix everything and make it better. I think this novel would be helpful for a child dealing with grief and compelling for any animal lover.



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