The writer/publisher of this book very kindly sent me a copy to review.
Thea Wilcox, il. Lorraine Ortner-Blake
2010, Puddleby Pony, LLC
"We are a family, even though we are different types of animals. No one is going to separate us!"
The little chestnut pony Puddleby is happy living with his friends Smooch (a pot-bellied pig) and Cedric (an old white goose), and the three conspire to remain together whenever potential buyers come to look at Puddleby. This changes when Miss Thea arrives. She can literally understand their speech, and quickly discerns that the three want to stay together. They go to live on Windham Hill Farm, where Puddleby makes equine friends for the first time. But living with show ponies makes the tiny Puddleby worry about his own talents. Too small to be ridden by any but the smallest of children, a poor jumper, with plain movement, he's clearly not meant for show ring success. What he doesn't realize is that Miss Thea has had a plan for him all along - she wants to use him as a therapy pony.
This is a sweet book with charming illustrations and an attractive, fairy-tale quality. The first half, which focuses on the animals, flows better than the second half, which introduces elements requiring more explanation. At this point, the story and the language become somewhat more labored as the author struggles to introduce new characters and convey the nature of the training Puddleby undergoes.
The book seems to have originated with a real-life therapy pony, and was written to raise money for a charity, Going Miles For Smiles, which appears to focus on the use of therapy ponies.
I was somewhat confused by the Miles For Smiles purpose. I'm aware of hippotherapy, in which horseback riding is used as a physical and mental therapy for the disabled, and I've heard of dogs, rabbits, cats, etc., being taken into nursing homes and hospitals and the like as 'therapy animals' to comfort and engage people who are sick, elderly, etc. But using a small pony for the latter purpose seems overly complicated, considering the practicalities of taking even small equines inside a building. The website says:
Going Miles for Smiles aims to seek out and discover people of all ages who are losing hope in life, for those who are sad and despondent, or for those who simply have had some bad luck in life and need a lift upwards. GMFS is committed to ensuring that attention is given, entertainment is provided, and above all love is poured forth for those whose dreams are dashed or who have a sad view of the world and their life at hand.
Googling around, I found an article which says that Wilcox traces her inspiration back to a prayer where she decided to do something special to 'give back' if a very sick child she knew recovered. The child recovered, and she later recalled the promise after buying Puddleby.
Puddleby - small chestnut pony
Smooch - beige pot-bellied pig
Cedric - white goose
Adam - grey show pony
Jupiter - chestnut show pony
DieZel - black show horse
Puddleby The Pony website
Going Miles For Smiles
Puddleby on Facebook
Lorraine Ortner-Blake's website
Another review, at the blog Horse Book Reviews
American Hippotherapy Association
And video link - the real Puddleby playing with an even smaller equine: