Maddy looked down at her pony’s mane as they walked along dusty McClymont’s Road. It was the whitest mane she’d ever seen.
‘That purple shampoo really worked, Snowy,’ she told her pony.
Snowy’s ears flicked back an dhe tossed his head.
Maddy giggled. ‘What’s wrong? You didn’t like it?’
As Maddy’s little brother says, Maddy has everything she ever wanted: a pony for her birthday and riding lessons for Christmas. Even though he’s an annoying little brother, even Maddy has to admit he’s right. But although she loves Snowy, her pony, she’s finding her first riding lesson hard. For lots of reasons. One: another rider in her class, Alita, seems determined to attack Maddy’s riding, her riding gear and her care of Snowy. Two: her mother used to ride here and Maddy’s sure she’ll never measure up and three: the riding lesson is much more difficult than she imagined. Then there’s the ‘forbidden trail’. Each page features a border of riding gear, and black and white illustrations are scattered throughout, breaking up the text. Cover art features a heart containing the series title and is pink and shiny purple.
Pine Valley Ponies: The Forbidden Trail is the first in a new series of chapter books from Scholastic, designed to appeal to young horse-loving girls. Horsey language is threaded through the adventure as are care and riding tips. Themes include friendship, bravery, resilience and more. Maddy makes a new friend in Iris, and also notices that the troublesome and superior Alita isn’t as confident as her fancy clothes and beautiful horse would suggest. She might have all the financial advantages, but her life isn’t without its trials. Maddy is a grounded and empathetic character, even when she’s approaching new challenges with trepidation. Recommended for newly independent readers and horse-mad girls.
Pine Valley Ponies: The Forbidden Trail , Kate Welshman ill Heath McKenzie
review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller