Wendy Constance’s Brave was the winner of The Times/Chicken House prize, 2013, for an unpublished new children’s author. It is the story of a boy and girl from two tribes of the Clovis hunter-gatherer people as they journey across prehistoric America. Blue Bird has run away from her clan and is looking for her dead mother’s people on the other side of the continent. Initially challenged with finding Blue Bird and bringing her back, thirteen-year-old Wild Horse joins her in her flight, and together they face many challenges, including natural obstacles and dangerous mega mammals as they are pursued by Wild Horse’s spiteful cousin, Zuni, and his band of hunters.
The book was originally titled Like a Brother which was presumably changed due to possible confusion with Michelle Paver’s Wolf Brother to which it bears a strong resemblance. There is evidence of other alterations; for example, Zuni’s father is sometimes called Grey Wolf and at other times he is Great Wolf, which is both confusing and curiously inelegant, given that the professional editorial process was supposedly part of the prize.
The story is told from the alternating point of view of Blue Bird and Wild Horse which is clearly flagged at the start of each chapter, a device that provides a satisfying breath of perspective that allows both boys and girls to identify with a protagonist. The quest to find a family, the adoption of the big cat, the early domestication of a dog, the spear hunting, the mammoths, the chaste love story and the rival, all combine to produce in Brave, a children’s version of Jean Auel’s The Valley of Horses which is suitable for boys and girls aged 10+.