This book, written by Catherine Anthony Clark, was published in Canada in 1951. That makes two points in its favor:
- Published a long time ago
- The OP is Canadian and read it in elementary school, so probably in Canada
Set in the province of British Columbia, Canada, the protagonist is an
orphaned boy, Mark, sent to live with his aunt and uncle. In his new
school, he befriends a girl named Giselle. Her father has mysteriously
gone missing, following a hunting trip during which Giselle suspects
that he was trying to capture the beautiful and mysterious Sun Horse,
which local legends identify as living in Forgotten Valley in the
Of course, Mark and Giselle decide that they are going to find and
bring home Giselle's father. Their adventures include making friends
with a bat (whom Giselle is surprised to find she can communicate with
telepathically), meeting the Marsh Witch who takes care of the swans
and runs around the marsh on her stilts, and asking for assistance
from the local Indian tribe.
The Marsh Witch is particularly fun--she uses cobwebs and captured
dreams to make sky ropes which can lasso clouds. She then climbs the
ropes and rides the clouds to see what is going on in the valley.
Although she looks scary in the beginning, the children discover that
she is really a caring woman and a great ally.
The father of one of the main characters has disappeared:
Her father has mysteriously gone missing....
There is a Sun Horse:
...the beautiful and mysterious Sun Horse....
And a witch:
...meeting the Marsh Witch who takes care of the swans
and runs around the marsh on her stilts.
There is a hidden magical land in the mountains:
...living in Forgotten Valley in the
And of course, there are two children, a boy and a girl. They aren't siblings, though, and the boy lives with his aunt and uncle, not his mother.
There aren't any soldiers mentioned in anything I saw, but there are is a Native Canadian man whom I believe might guard the Sun Horse.
There are characters called the Flame Lighter Woman and the Bat:
There they meet strange people like the Flame Lighter Woman and the
Bat, and have many adventures.
The main antagonist of the story appears to be the Thunderbird:
The children's search leads them to the domain of the Thunderbird, an
evil creature whose lofty perch affords it considerable protection and
power over creatures below. The children overcome their fears and
eventually undertake the dangerous climb to the Thunderbird's nest.
They are thus able to rescue Giselle's father.
More details, along with a few excerpts, are also given in this academic work.