Sunday, January 11, 2009

Summer Pony (Jean Slaughter Doty, 1973)

When Ginny Anderson convinces her parents to lease her a pony for the summer, she never expects that her dream horse will be so - real. The first shock is the decrepit Sweetbriar Pony Farm, where her loving but unhorsey parents take her to select a pony. The second is the pony, a skinny pinto mare with mismatched eyes and a mind of her own. The third is the reality of caring for an animal who can die from overeating and fly into a lethal panic over a falling leaf. But as the Andersons learn about stable management and Ginny learns to ride, the summer becomes fun, especially when Ginny makes friends with a neighbor who also rides.

Summer Pony is impressive in its handling of a typical situation - a horsey child with unhorsey parents, and the problems that creates - in a solid, realistic manner that manages to be interesting and involving without resorting to the more spectacular adventures that many horse book rely upon. True, Ginny does conveniently makes friends with a wealthy, horsey neighbor girl whose family has an Irish stableman who is a ready source of information and help. But without a few useful coincidences, the heroes of pony books would be stuck doing what we did as kids - reading library books on the porch while wishing we had ponies.

Information-wise, Summer Pony is one of those that gives the hungry wannabe horse owner good food. Ginny's shown puzzling out how to bridle her new pony, learning the difference between bits, and other fascinating-to-horse-people arcana. Catnip.

There is no separating this book from its illustrator. Sam Savitt's cover alone makes the book sing. The interior drawings are as alluring. Savitt's warm, safe style suits this book perfectly, and it is a beautiful marriage. The most recent edition unfortunately replaced Savitt's realistic cover painting with a cartoonish watercolor.

Other books by the author:
Winter Pony (sequel)
The Crumb
The Monday Horses
Can I Get There By Candlelight?
Yesterday’s Horses
If Wishes Were Horses
The Valley Of The Ponies
Dark Horse

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