Runaway (Starlight Animal Rescue) Reviews

UPDATE TIME: 2018-01-23 
Review Score: 4 out of 5 star From 175 user ratings

Starlight Animal Rescue
By Dandi Daley Mackall

Dakota Brown's known to be a runner. She's been in the system since she was 9 and before entering it her home life was less than ideal.

But there is something different about this foster home. First it's in the middle of nowhere, and it has a really lame name Nice. Why anyone would want to live in someplace called Nice is totally beyond Dakota's comprehension. Then it is also home to Starlight Animal Rescue, not that there is anything wrong with animals, though Dakota isn't a fan of cats. But there are horses... And when Dakota and her caseworker Ms. Bean arrive they are definitely not on their best behavior trying for a good first impression, which is a shocker for Dakota.

But when Dakota finds a horse that needs her she is torn. Should she continue her plans to runaway to California? Or could she actually finally find a home with the Coolidges? And will Dakota discover what she truly wants before she ruins her chance to be part of a loving family?
" said.

"Dakota Brown is a foster kid who's been in the system long enough to have a sob story for any setting. She makes lists to feel in control and has almost mastered the art of avoiding attachment. She plans her escape before she ever arrives at her next home. Until Dakota is assigned to Starlight Animal Rescue and the family that runs it. There she finds herself stranded in the country with two other foster kids, dogs, cats, and horses. She had no problem keeping disconnected from the people, it was the horse that captured her heart. Dakota instantly connects with a horse dubbed Black Devil. The connection runs so deep that she renames the horse Blackfire and sneaks out to train the whenever she can.

I initially ordered this book for my daughter, but when I found myself bored one day and the book sitting lonely on her shelf I couldn't help myself. It was hard to put down. I enjoyed the different personalities of the characters and the interesting peak into the world of the horse. I will definitely be encouraging my daughter to pick this one next time she is looking for something to read.
" said.

"Typical Dakota -"Wherever we are going, I won't be staying. That much I can promise. I've run away seven times -never once to anything, just away from. "

Dakota Brown has mastered one thing:running away. Wherever Chicago's social services place her this time, she is determined to find a way out. But this new foster family isn't like the others. Something's different. People are nice, caring even. And there's an animal shelter nearby where Dakota can be with the horses whenever she wants. But she doesn't belong here, does she? She's just a foster, right? Her escape time is coming up, and Dakota doesn't know what to think.

"Runaway" has a very interesting perspective, which I, for one, should probably read more on. Dakota has never had a good family. That's why it's hard for her to understand the concept of being a part of God's. The family, at least most of it, is Christian. They love Dakota, something she had never experienced with foster parents and siblings. Faith isn't described as much as it could be, though.

On the technical side, "Runaway" relied very heavily on dialogue, which slowed down the story somewhat. And sometimes it was hard to tell what emotion the speaker was talking with.

Overall, "Runaway" has a good idea and good suspense, I think (I kept wondering how and if she was going to run away) but I'd really like if there was more about God.
" said.

Back Cover: A new series by Dandi Daley Mackall, author of the best-selling Winnie the Horse Gentler series! "I've run away seven times--never once to anything, just away from. Maybe that's why they call me a "runaway," and not a "run-to."" Meet 16-year-old Dakota Brown. She used to love all things "horse" until she lost everything, including hope. The minute she sets foot on her foster parents' farm--Starlight Animal Rescue--she plans her escape. But can an "impossible" horse named Blackfire and this quirky collection of animal lovers be the home she's always dreamed of? Starlight Animal Rescue: Where problem horses are trained and loved, where abandoned dogs become heroes, where stray cats become loyal companions. And where people with nowhere to fit in find a place to belong.


Runaway, the first book in the Starlight series, is a series that goes along with the Winnie the Horse Gentler. A foster teen, Dakota, has bounced around the foster system for a while. When she goes to a family who lives on a farm, she immediately plans to run away for good. But the foster family she's with is more than she thought it would be. As the time soon comes, will she go and start over, or stay with the family?
I really enjoyed this book, and I would suggest it to anyone who loves animals and foster families.

I would rate this book 5 out of 5 stars.
" said.

"This is a wonderful beginning to the Starlight Animal Rescue series. The main character, Dakota, is 16 years old but I think both tweens and teens would enjoy this book. I was surprised but glad that the author portrayed a youth in foster care as her main character. Having worked with this group of youth before, I totally connected with Dakota's attitude of just wanting to run away, putting on a game face until she could leave, and trying not to get too attached to anyone. Other readers might think she's hard to like but I really felt for her since she had no sense of permanency. Just like the author's other books, the supporting cast of characters are unique and funny, especially the foster parents (I wish there were a lot more foster parents like them!). Since I don't know much about horses, I always feel like I learn so much about horses and their behavior whenever I read Ms. Mackall's books. For those who read the Winnie the Horse Gentler series, you'll be happy to know these two series are connected. The foster family, the Coolidges, are related to Winnie's friend Catman Coolidge. Also, the kids email Winnie and Catman for advice about horses and cats. There were some pretty humorous moments and pretty touching ones, too. I really loved the Bible verse that finally spoke to Dakota about how much the Father loves us that He calls us His children because that is what we are! How it must speak to a child who longs for a father's love and a real family! On a side note, there is a helpful section at the end of the book on "tips for finding your perfect pet." I enjoyed this book and would recommend it to any tween/teen.
" said.

"Perfect for : Personal reading, Great gift book for child/young adult

In a nutshell: A gentle, charming book filled with learning opportunities, hope, faith, love and family. Once I picked this book up, I found it refreshing in its simplicity and it's faith-centered attitude. No pushy preaching here - but something a child/young adult/adult/parent can read and enjoy, while getting a sense of peace, happiness . . . and family. Dakota Brown has been from foster-home to foster-home, never fitting in, never staying long. She is brought to the Coolidges farm, where she meets a wonderful family who help her see that she might be able to be part of a family after all! It was great to watch Dakota make choices that affected both her and those around her. The families reactions always surprised her, as they put people above posessions. Throughout the book, choices are made, some good - some bad, and there are consequenses to help reinforce growth and learning.

My Review:
This book is about Dakota Brown, a 15 year-old girl who has already been to seven different foster homes. Now she is being taken to the eighth foster-home by Ms. Bean, her social worker. From the get-go, Dakota is planning to run-away, and plans to enlist the help of Niel, another kid who has been lost in the foster-system for so long he plans to leave for good.

Dakota uses her list-book to help keep some sort of control of her life. The book lincludes many 10-Reasons Why . . . lists (Why I Don't Like. . . Why Horses are Better Than Cars . . . , etc).

Ms. Bean feels that Dakota might do better with a change of pace, so takes her to Nice, the small community where the Coolidges live on their farm Starlight Animal Rescue. Dr. Annie and Chester "Popeye" Coolidge are loving parents to both their natural son Hank, and two other foster-children Kat and Wes. Each memeber of the family has a significant impact on Dakota, helping to ultimately help her make the best choices for both herself, and the family.

Not everything in the story is perfect (which wouldn't be realistic). One member is fighting a serious illness, and one has ties to a troubled parent. Dakota makes many mistakes in her first two weeks (crashing Popeye's and Hank's truck, stealing money from the Pet Adoption canister), but through these mistakes, she learns valuable lessons and comes to learn that she has found people to care for, who love her for herself. Could this be the family she has secretly yearned for?

Characters: I encourage you to come meet the people who cheer for Dakota when she successfully gets her driver's permit (she admits never knowing a time when someone has cheered for her, what can I say - I felt like cheering as well), who help her learn to be part of a team, who teach her to be responsible and care for someone/something else (Blackfire the horse has a special transformation that is entirely thanks to Dakota). The characters, both human and animal, are wonderful. Each has a personality that is used by the author to help with growth within the family. I truely loved each character.

Story-Line: I think the story-line was great, especially considering the age group most likely to read the story, those around 9-12 or so years old. Kids will be able to relate to the characters' feelings and actions, even if they aren't a foster-child themselves. It will help kids to look at how their actions affect others, and that they can have a positive impact on people and animals through their choices and how they treat others.

Readability: This was a very easy-to-read story for all ages. Even though it is written as juvenile fiction, it is all-ages appropriate. It made me smile and walk with a lighter step.

Overall: A great book, written with a Christian influence (not over-powering, more inspiring and hope-filled). This is sure to be a favorite book/series for both kids and parents.
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" An outstanding work of warmth, humour, faith and love. Highly recommended. " said.

" Since Dakota Brown became a foster child, she has never done anything but runaway. She never needed a particular reason, but she felt the need to run. When she is sent to live with the owners of the Starlight Animal Rescue, she thinks things will be the same. But that was before she fell in love with a rescue horse and before she learned that a real family will love you no matter what.
This was a really good book, I would really like to read some more from this series sometime. It was a great story of family, love, forgiveness, and , of course, horses!
I would recommend this book to any of my friends. It is a great story for all ages. Someone as young as 10 or 12 would have no problems with this story, yet it is not too simple for a grown person.
" said.

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