CELTIC THUNDER by Angeli Perrow, August 2011, Angeli Perrow, Kindle $2.99, paperback $8.99, 186 pages.
Angeli Perrow leaned back in the saddle and held on tight as the horse began the steep descent down the mountain.
“Trust the horse,” the Irish guides had told her.
“I was scared to death, slipping on rocks all the way down. That was quite an adventure,” said Perrow, an art teacher in Hampden, who, in the past decade, has found her calling as an author for children and young teens.
Later that evening, after she had made it safely down the mountain and back to the bed and breakfast nestled in the Irish hills, Perrow recorded the thrilling ride in her 2007 travel journal. The basis of her newest book, “Celtic Thunder,” released in August, is those experiences.
While exploring the green isle on horseback, Perrow learned about two teenage girls who were also riding with guides that week. And though she never had the chance to meet the girls, Perrow tried to place herself in their shoes and imagine embarking on such an adventure at a young age. The two girls became Xander, the main character of “Celtic Thunder,” and her best friend, Brynn. Their story is for ages 12-16, the oldest age group Perrow has written for.
Like many girls her age, Xander is hindered by self-doubt, uncertainty that only magnifies when she swings her leg over a horse’s saddle. Nevertheless, she sacrifices her savings and her pride to take horseback riding lessons before joining Brynn in Ireland. And the difficult riding lessons, taught by one of the most popular boys in school, is only the first of many challenges. In a foreign land, Xander faces her fear of heights, among other things.
“I think kids should get out of this to not be afraid to try new things,” said Perrow. “Be loyal to your friends. And if you have a chance to get out there and explore the world, do it.”
From the Cliffs of Moher to a ruined watchtower in Cleggan, Xander and Brynn roam Ireland, a land of brilliant green hills, relentless rain and mystic tales of fairies and wishing wells. It is the land of Xander’s ancestors, and while attending a traditional ceilidh, or dance party, she meets some of relatives and catches the eye of a romantic young man with a passion for his country’s ancient tales.
Xander’s personality mirrors Perrow’s teenage self. Though shy in comparison to her confident blond-haired best friend, Xander has a consistent sense of humor that helps her through scary or uncomfortable situations.
“I’m still a big kid at heart, and it’s still pretty much fresh in my memory,” said Perrow of writing about teenage friendship and the excitement of blossoming relationships.
Though the story is fictional, in many ways, Perrow is simply writing what she knows from a younger perspective. In addition to her interest in horseback riding, she is a lover of Celtic music, takes classes in Irish dancing in Brewer and is learning to play the Irish tin whistle.
Born in Rockland, Perrow began writing poems and stories as a child. She now teaches art to grades three to five in Hampden, where she lives with her husband, daughter, son-in-law and dog, Lily. She also has a son, daughter-in-law and two grandchildren who live in Glenburn.
Perrow began her career as an author with children’s picture books: “Captain’s Castaway” (1998) and “Lighthouse Dog to the Rescue” (2000), and “Sirius the Dog Star” (2002), published by Down East Books. Her newest picture book, “Many Hands,” also published by Down East Books, received the 2011 Lupine Award, an award that is presented annually by the Youth Services Section Interest Group of the Maine Library Association “to recognize an outstanding contribution to children’s literature of Maine.”
She decided to self-publish “Celtic Thunder” and make it available in paperback and as an e-book online. She turned to Michele Bonin of Dixmont for the bookcover’s graphic design, and to polish the writing, she turned to her writers’ critique group for feedback. The group, which meets in Bangor and Ellsworth, suggested she continue with the story. Perrow has already completed the sequel, “Celtic Dream,” which takes place in Maine, with the two best friends riding trails on Acadia National Park. She plans to write a third book after taking a research trip to Scotland.
“I do love to travel,” said Perrow, who is spending three days horseback riding with her husband on the lava fields of Iceland next month.
Though school has started back up, she plans to continue with her “second job,” writing and illustrating. She’s currently working on watercolor illustrations for her next children’s book, “Dog Sled Dreamer,” about the first Danish woman to become a dogsled driver, and is completing the sequel to “The Lightkeeper’s Key” (2009), a book for ages 8-12. All the while, she continues to teach art, relying on her students for guidance in her endeavors as an author and illustrator.