Peterson, Shelley 1952-

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PETERSON, Shelley 1952-


Born March 17, 1952, in London, Ontario, Canada; daughter of Donald (an engineer and developer) and Joyce (a schoolteacher) Matthews; married David Robert Peterson (a lawyer and former premier of Ontario, Canada), January 12, 1974; children: Ben, Chloë, Adam. Ethnicity: "WASP: English, Scottish, French." Education: Attended Dalhousie University, Banff School of Fine Arts, and University of Western Ontario. Politics: Liberal. Hobbies and other interests: Horse riding, training, and breeding.


Home—8 Gibson Ave., Toronto, Ontario M5R 1T5, Canada. E-mail—[email protected].


Actress and author. Actress in numerous stage performances, including (debut) Pinocchio, London, Ontario, Canada, 1962; The Donnellys, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Anne of Green Gables, Run for Your Wife; and Steel Magnolias. Actress for film, including The Housekeeper, RawiFilm, and Einstein: Light to the Power of Two, HBO/Family Channel. Actress in television, including series Not My Department, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and Doghouse, YTV/USA Network; telefilms Kiss and Kill and An Equal Right to Die; and specials.


Actor's Equity; Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television, and Radio Artists; Writer's Union of Canada; Canada Sport Horse Association; Canadian Equine Federation.



Dancer, Porcupine's Quill (Erin, Ontario, Canada), 1996.

Abby Malone, illustrated by Marybeth Drake, Porcupine's Quill (Erin, Ontario, Canada), 1999.

Stagestruck, Key Porter (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2002.


Son of Dancer; Confessions.


Canadian stage and television actress and horse trainer Shelley Peterson has somehow managed to find enough hours in her busy schedule to write three young adult novels that feature young women building their skills as equestrians while also practicing their detective ability. Peterson's "Caledon" trilogy, which takes place in the author's Ontario hometown, features teen protagonists who lead lives almost as busy as that of their author, but still find time to tackle a mystery or two along the way to winning a ribbon or trophy at the next horse show.

In Dancer, readers meet Hilary James, otherwise known as "Mousie," a sixteen-year-old equestrian whose temperamental mount, Daring Dancer, has caught the eye of a horse thief. After a winning performance at the Toronto Royal Winter Fair jumping competition, an invitation is offered to Mousie to put Dancer through her paces before the Queen of England, bringing both horse and rider to Great Britain. There, in between fox hunting with the royals, the teen soon discovers signs that a premonition about the theft of her horse may in fact come to pass, while ghostly apparitions and the rekindling of a fairytale romance separate the novel from typical "horse-meets-girl" fiction, claim reviewers. Noting that Peterson's story line "seems a bit farfetched," Quill & Quire reviewer Anne Louise Mahoney nonetheless praised the high-adventure novel as a "fun read" that "is sure to please horse fans."

In Abby Malone, readers meet a young teen who inherited a love of horses from her father, a former horse racer. Fortunately, she did not inherit his suspected tendency to break the law, but dealing with a father who claims innocence while in prison is not easy. Abby's alcoholic mother is unable to care for either the girl or herself, and Abby feels many of the responsibilities and stresses of adulthood falling on her shoulders at an early age. When the opportunity comes to ride her favorite horse, Moonlight Sonata, in a local steeplechase event, Abby finds that the task of training the horse—and uncovering a sequence of mysteries involving her father, her pet coyote Cody, and various friends—allows her to break away from her unpleasant family circumstances. While noting the old-fashioned quality of the novel, Deborah Dowson praised Abby Malone in her review for Canadian Book Review Annual, noting that Peterson "skillfully" combines "mystery, suspense, romance, and family drama to create an exciting read." Writing in the Free Press (London, Ontario, Canada), Nancy Schiefer had special praise for the novel's protagonist, noting that Abby "combines an adventurous spirit with sensitivity, common sense, and a good degree of feisty courage."

Dancer's story continues in the final installment of Peterson's "Caledon" trilogy. In Stagestruck, Mousie James is off at college, leaving her beloved mount in the hands of Abby Malone, now age sixteen. Things are looking up in Abby's life: her mother is attempting to seek treatment for her drinking problem, her father is out of jail, and she has a horse to care for full time. While busy training Dancer to compete in the Grand Invitational Horse Show, Abby discovers that the horse is still being sought after by thieves; other echoes of Peterson's first novel also enter the plot. Though considering some of the information provided in the book a hindrance to plot development, Joan Marshall acknowledged that the novel contains "some genuinely gripping and dramatic moments," as she remarked in her Resource Links review of Stagestruck.

Peterson told CA: "I grew up as the second eldest of six children, surrounded by activity and animals. Dogs, cats, hamsters, turtles, fish, and best of all, horses. Every birthday and Christmas I had one request only, 'PLEASE can I have riding lessons?' Finally, at age eleven, my wish came true. Our family moved to the country shortly after, and the barn was always full. To this day, I raise and train horses, now understanding how little I knew way back then, and how forgiving my beloved horses were.

"I became enthralled at a very young age with the stories I found in books. Saturday morning would find me standing in front of the library, arms full of read books, waiting for the librarian to unlock the door to allow me to restock for the upcoming week. Mystery, adventure, fairy tales, and legends; they silently waited for young fingers to lift open their covers and enter their worlds.

"My love of stories led quite naturally to theater, where characters, plot, interaction, motives, and emotions lift off the page and come to life. The world of theater captivated me, and I started acting lessons at age ten and turned professional at the age of twenty. Since then, I've performed in well over one hundred plays and have starred in two television series, as well as dozens of roles in film and television.

"Along the way, I fell in love and married David, and we were lucky enough to give birth to three enchanting children: Ben, Chloë, and Adam. As they were growing, I reveled in their expanding minds and sense of fun, which is quite likely why I write for young adults. It is an extremely impressionable time in a person's life. Certainly it was for me.

"In the 'Caledon' trilogy, my writing combines all my loves: stories, young people, excitement, horses, theater, intrigue. They're written for ages nine to fourteen, but my hope is that all ages might enjoy reading them, and perhaps even rediscover something of their youth." With her children grown, Peterson and her husband spend much of their time at Fox Ridge Farm, a sixty-five-acre farm where Peterson raises and trains horses.



Books in Canada, October, 1997, Alex Browne, review of Dancer, pp. 35-36.

Canadian Book Review Annual, 1996, Dave Jenkinson, review of Dancer, p. 489; 1999, Deborah Dowson, review of Abby Malone, pp. 513-514.

Chatelaine, August, 1986, Robert Collision, "David and Shelley: The Politics of Style," pp. 60-61.

Free Press (London, Ontario, Canada), April, 1997, Barbara Novak, review of Dancer; August 14, 1999, Nancy Schiefer, review of Abby Malone.

Quill & Quire, December, 1996, Anne Louise Mahoney, review of Dancer, p. 40.

Resource Links, February, 2003, Joan Marshall, review of Stagestruck, p. 43.


Porcupine's Quill Web Site, (January 19, 2002).