Review of My Champion

This is a beautifully written and beautifully illustrated book for children and grownups alike. The inspirational story captures the sense of self-worth. Two friends, a girl and her horse, each want more from life and each grows to find that the true self is the worthy self. The marvelous majesty of the draft horse named Star and the freedom-loving child, Tess, fills the reader’s heart with optimism and joy. The bravery and the honesty of this book cannot be denied. This is a storybook that will be loved by families and children for decades, with one generation passing it on to the next. I would like to see it nominated for the Newbery Medal.

~~ RD Larson author of  Evil Angel (, Mama Tried to Raise a Lady, Saving Reverend Clayton, Sorrow’s Field, Doors: Five Stories of  Strong Women, Marian Riles, Soft-boiled Detective (

What is Best About My Champion
Comments from Writer’s Digest

In My Champion, the author tells a story based on a real horse champion in her life that profoundly impacted her as a child.  That impact shines through in this story about one girl’s coming-of-age that is full of strong description and fantastic adventure.  Readers will particularly have no trouble identifying with both Tess and Star and their dreams, which is the mark of any good picture book (or any story for that matter.).  The illustrations are gorgeous and really make this book come alive, one page after another.  They’re a perfect fit for such a beautiful book.

on a scale of 1 to 5 (1 = poor, 5 = excellent)
-structure & organization 4
-grammar 5
-cover design 5

My Champion
S. K. Carnes
Illumina Publishing
48 Pages

Hardcover $22.95
Four stars (out of Five)

Tess is in love with horses and dreams. On the days that she is allowed to ride one of the work horses from her family’s farm, Tess rides out to her special place by the sea. With her faithful companion, Star, she gathers driftwood and builds a shelter there. Tess collects treasures of special shells, fishing nets, and old shoelaces. One day when Tess visits, she discovers an old orange crate with the word “Valencia” on it, and so her shelter becomes Valencia. The eagle soaring above watches over Star and his human companion and tries to talk with the old horse. One day, Tess notices that her bracelet of shells is missing and in its place is a bracelet with a crystal heart. Perhaps the young girl who lives above the cliff has found her treasure spot and has come down to play.
Through her beautiful illustrations, the author introduces her characters to the reader. Along the way, the reader learns to dream about things to come, just as Tess dreams about riding on a champion horse before a cheering crowd of spectators. Although the text is lengthy for a picture book, it is an excellent read-aloud story to be shared between adults and young readers. The accompanying CD presents a reading of original poetry by John McCutcheon, with narration of the story by Ernest Pugh and original music and sound effects by Alan Boyne. Young readers will enjoy this book at various levels of understanding, first as a simple story of a girl and her horse, then as a story of accomplishment and pride.

Clarion Review by Joyce Rice

“First-time author and illustrator, Susan Carnes, has crafted a refreshingly honest and tender story of a lonely young girl and her horse searching for, and finding, their indentities in a small island community. Carnes´ rich, colorful illustrations weave together the story with her own obvious profound passion for our natural environment. Upbeat and inspiring, this books speaks to young girls everywhere with kindness and understanding.”

Maureen Dietrich
Pacific Pearl Magazine

“When I read “MY CHAMPION” to my granddaughter, it brought back fond
memories of growing up on San Juan Island in Washington State, which is truly a
special place in paradise.  This story will certainly be of support to those
young girls who, at times, feel alone and lack confidence in this somewhat fast
paced and competitive society.  The importance of caring relationships with
others, including animals, is emphasized in the story. I was captivated by the
references to the beautiful and fragile environment in which we live.  The
outstanding illustrations would inspire readers of all ages.  It is obvious a
great deal of thought regarding the many facets of young pre-teen girls has
gone into the writing of this story. I would definitely recommend this book as
a must in our school and public libraries as we seek wholesome and
thought-provoking material for our young readers.”

Dr.  Ronald Guard Crawford

BS – Washington State University
MS – University  of Washington
MEd – Columbia University
EdD – Columbia  University

Thirty years experience as an educator, including fifteen  years as a
Superintendent of Schools.

My Champion is a masterpiece! The narrative and illustrations work together to produce, at one level, an engaging tale of a little girl and an old work horse who feel excluded from those around them but then, thanks to their bravery, become heroes of those who excluded them. At another level, this book is a reflection into the fragile self-esteem of the human psyche. This book will definitely occupy a place of prominence in my home library as well as in my school library.

Roger Ted Johnson, Principal
Alessandro Volta Elementary School – Chicago

As an artist, a mother of daughters, and a long time islander, I have experienced the power of the Salish Sea environment to teach many wise lessons. Susan Carnes captures the poetic wonder of a young girls growth towards self confidence and maturity. “My Champion” through its narrative  story and  accompaning magical illustrations , draws readers young and old into a tale of the  power of dreams to create anew reality full of promise. .

Sherry Smith Bell
Artist , educator
Director, Blue Sky Press

I have watched My Champion grow from a few beautiful
pictures and a mystical story to a full-fledged book of magic
proportions. Inspired by memories of her childhood, Sue Carnes
has given us a book that will enthrall children the world over and
give them a belief in miracles.

Ethel Stockton
Author of the Annaliz series

Heirloom Quality Paintings and Lyrical Language Unite in Unforgettable Story of a Young Girl’s Coming of Age

Award-winning picture book
will be handed down for countless generations

Tess is a ten-year-old farm girl who loves freedom and adventure and dreaming. Over four seasons’ time, she and her workhorse companion Star learn from “the school of the wild” as they create a dream home by the sea out of driftwood and castaway treasures. In these moments, Tess’s thoughts of envy and self-doubt disappear, as does her secret unhappiness that she lacks the fine show horses her peers have.

Dreams change and time passes until one day Star discovers his proud draft horse ancestry. In the face of nature’s fury, Tess uses ingenuity and courage together with Star’s spirit and power, to prevail in a heroic rescue. The realization that they are “good enough” just being themselves is profoundly felt as horse and rider are forever changed.  This transformation resonates throughout Carnes’ vivid oil illustrations and leaves readers simultaneously awed and gratified.

With master storyteller Ernest Pugh narrating this timeless story prefaced by the words of John McCutcheon’s song “Like Water From a Another Time” on the accompanying CD, it is clear that author and illustrator Susan K. Carnes has struck gold with My Champion. Indeed, the book won a gold medal in the “Spirit” category from Moonbeams.

My Champion is available at,, or through the distributor’s website at Find more information and order autographed copies from the author’s website at

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My Champion by Susan K. Carnes; Fiction; Hard cover; audio CD included; $22.95; ISBN: 978-0-9718600-7-0

Author and artist Susan K. Carnes created My Champion from pieces of her life. As a child, she explored the shores of Lake Superior astride a workhorse from her family’s Wisconsin dairy farm. She understands the connection between girls and horses and, even more significantly, the importance of feeling a part of something bigger than yourself

Susan Carnes, author and illustrator of My Champion.

Magic Doors to the Unforgettable. Untold tales and meaningful encounters .

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