Rodeo Finn by Clare O’Beara is a multi-genre novel for teens and young adults. Realistic equine fiction with nonfiction information regarding Ireland’s and Arizona’s farming, ranching, and equestrian competitions form the story. The two protagonists are cousins. Finn is from a small but productive farm in Ireland run by her family. She visits her Uncle Jack’s ranch near Phoenix and learns how large ranches can be in America. She finds out the several small buildings by her uncle’s house are where the workers live. The land is too big for one family to maintain.
O’Beara cleverly avoids the topic of romance by having the protagonists be related. Romance is not a part of this book. Most of the story focuses on work with horses and plenty of learning about western riding, different kinds of horses, Irish farms, American ranches, and rodeos.
Finn’s lush family farm supports four cows per acre. Sean’s family land supports one cow with ten acres of scrubland, and at that, the cattle are rotated to prevent overgrazing. Finn learns rodeo steers can sweat, live on tough grass, weigh about 2000 pounds, and resist tick infections. The two teenagers compare and contrast their knowledge throughout the book, which is a social studies learning opportunity. Students will widen their views of the two countries while reading.
*Note to parents and teachers: Finn’s best friend dies early in the story. There is some discussion of religious beliefs about this event between Finn and her mother. Also, Finn attends her first protestant church service while in Arizona. Religion is not a major premise of the book, but be advised the topic could come up in discussion.
The house Finn lives in has been handed down through the generations, as her father was the eldest son. By contrast, Sean lives in a wooden house. Finn learns how to country dance during her stay. Uncle Jack’s housekeeper, Luisa, has a son who breeds, trains and, sells horses, Rodriguez. One thread of the story involves the differences between English riding with jodhpurs, jacket, and helmet, from western riding and rodeos.
Rodriguez, Sean, and Finn all compete in the County Show, which is a rodeo. Finn has to buy a few clothing items and borrows some other things to wear for the competition. Luisa helps by doing some tailoring work on Finn’s new pants. The events at the show go well, and there is an unexpected event when Sean is in danger. The ending of the book is a surprise, even to Finn.
This book is excellent for students who are interested in horses, Ireland, and ranches. The nonfiction information embedded in the story will help students learn new facts as pertains to the characters.
The following grade 7 standards could be partially met with a novel study of the book, Rodeo Finn.
Cite several pieces of textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text; provide an objective summary of the text.
Analyze how particular elements of a story or drama interact (e.g., how setting shapes the characters or plot).
Analyze how an author develops and contrasts the points of view of different characters or narrators in a text.
Next are some images of the student work pages in the free instant download. This packet is not written to standards and is intended to encourage a love of reading for teens interested in horses and travel.