Autumn had arrived at Pomona Orchard, where Maddy Sharpe and her family lived. The days were getting shorter and darker and the leaves on the peach trees were turning brown and drifting to the ground. Maddy had noticed that other things were changing, too, like her pony’s coat. A few days ago, Snowy’s coat had been short and smooth. Now it was as long and thick as a woolly mammoth’s.
Maddy loves her pony, Snowy. She loves learning to ride and everything to do with having a pony, even though it can be a lot of work. She particularly loves her weekly riding lesson at Pine Valley Ranch. She wonders if she’ll ever be as good as her friend Iris Digby. But Alita Jessup is harder to love. Alita is a show-off in class, with her fancy gear and her shiny boots. She is sure she knows better than their teacher, Pattie, and often disrupts the class with her comments and behaviour. This week, six foals are to be weaned, separated from their mothers, and everything needs to be calm and in control around the ranch. But one of the foals, Sunny, isn’t quite ready to be separated from her mum. Each page has a border featuring riding essentials, and black and white illustrations are scattered throughout. Cover art is in pink and shiny purple. Throughout the text, some words are picked out in larger font and bold.
‘Pine Valley Ponies’ is a new series from Scholastic, aimed fairly and squarely at horse-obsessed girls. Whether they have their own pony, or they wish they do, they’ll be able to discover the joys, challenges and responsibilities of horse ownership. Maddy admits to anxieties about each new stage of learning to ride well, while being keen to discover more. She explores friendship and struggles to understand the attitudes of show-off Alita who doesn’t always seem to have her pony’s best interests at heart. She watches others and tries to emulate them, but also displays empathy and bravery when they are necessary. Recommended for newly independent readers, particularly horse-mad girls.
Pine Valley Ponies: The Runaway Foal , Kate Welshman ill Heath McKenzie Scholastic 2015 ISBN: 9781743624319
review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller