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4.1 out of 5 stars
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4.1 out of 5 stars
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on 18 March 2002
The Red pony is a story of a boy and the pony he is given and subsequently dies, that is essentially the story. However the greatness of this book, as is so often the case with Steinbeck is not the story but the writing, and this is written well, very well in fact. With a fairly limited storyline Steinbeck has to rely on his writing ability as he so often does with the likes of the Wayward Bus, Cannery Row and even to a certain extent East of Eden and the Pullitzer winning Grapes of Wrath. It his undeniable that Steinbeck is one of the most important authors of the 20th century but still his lesser known works go largely unnoticed, it is also true that works such as the Red Pony have a place in our society and should be enjoyed a great deal more than they are. Naturally, when considering the other works that Steinbeck has sculpted it is understandable if some others fall by the wayside but the Red Pony should not be one of them. It is short and concise and should you be looking for something to fill a rainy afternoon and can't bring yourself to go to the video rental store then this is the book you should be reading.
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John Steinbeck could be as subtle as any writer when he wanted to be. These four discrete but connected stories, all set on and around a ranch in pre-war California and highlighting the growing pains of 'the little boy Jody' who is ten and longing to be a grown-up, though not relishing too many adult responsibilities, are written with both great compassion and relaxed concision. One thing they most definitely are not is children`s stories, though they happen to be about a child.
Whether it`s the gift of a pony, the promise of a mare`s colt, his fascination for the range of mountains beyond the little world of the ranch, or the tales of his visiting grandfather - who once, so he never tires of reminding all and sundry, led a wagon train going west - all are grist to the churning mill of Jody`s growing up rites of passage, described with much sentiment but little sentimentality by this truly great writer.
I`ve come to revere Steinbeck, and consider him, along with Melville, Twain, Jack London, Scott Fitzgerald, Carson McCullers, Richard Yates, and Cormac McCarthy as an indisputably great American fiction writer. There`s an expansive, resonant quality he shares with the above which makes most of his books not only unique experiences but works to return to again and again.
The Red Pony stories have a subtlety and resonance not perhaps immediately apparent but which linger in the mind long after one has closed this short book. I find the same effect with the two connected books Cannery Row and Sweet Thursday, which for me contain the best of Steinbeck - his humour, some anger, much passion, and a feeling for the 'ordinary' man and woman. That same fellow feeling is here in these delightful, gemlike tales.

Recommended.
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on 2 October 2010
This was the book that started it all for me. The stories are short and to the point and yet as always with Steinbeck this collection packs punch. Like Steinbeck himself the details are raw and gritty with the life of southern California. Some may find parts of the story morbidly intense but it all feeds into the realism that the author was aiming to create. That clean and brutal kind of writing is just what attracts me to him.

Steinbeck is possibly the most real writer I have ever come across. Even his own life becomes transparent through his work. The Red Pony is still a great favourite and I cannot recommend it enough.
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on 20 January 2012
I think it is a shame that The Red Pony is sold as a short novel rather than a collection of short stories about the same character.

Apparently, it was originally written as short stories, and (in my opinion anyway) is much better judged as short stories.

Judged as a novel, it seems a bit disjointed and the fourth chapter in particular seems out of place. The ending of the 3rd chapter is powerful, and links up with the first chapter (with the 2nd chapter as a bit of an interlude), but then the last chapter seems out of place. It felt odd to me. I even went back to listen to it again, thinking I must have missed something. If it had ended after the third chapter, the ending would have been perfect.

It was only after reading that it had originally been written as individual stories that I got it. The fourth story is fine (though probably the weakest), but just seems out of place.

Read (listen to) the first 3 stories as one novel or set of stories, and then read the last story as a separate self-contained story, and I think it makes more sense. At least, that's my thought.
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on 18 July 2014
Beautifully written in terms of descriptions, addictive and compulsive but not particularly a children's book. Topic matter follows part of the life of a boy and getting his first horse but don't expect happy endings.
Brilliant book. ! As Roald Dahl says , one of those books that has to be read in a lifetime.
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on 10 December 2012
This book was recommended by another teacher. My students thought it took a while to get involved but they all enjoyed it and it generated some good work by them. There is a film.
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on 22 December 2014
What a wonderful book: recommended to me as suitable material for 11- 14 year olds and a good introduction to Of Mice and Men which is almost ubiquitous on the GCSE reading lists. It is a tough story, or sequence of stories, and I would not recommend giving it to children of this age without being familiar with the story yourself - there is a lot of the harshness and unremitting reality of life that is also in Of Mice and Men but it is much more accessible. The stories are short - some of them very short, but full of richness and meaning - they can be analysed ad infinitum and are certainly a discussion starter; perhaps especially useful for those children who have experienced adults being very fallible, making mistakes, letting them down, causing grief - that is what the adults in this book do.
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VINE VOICEon 13 February 2012
Steinbeck fans coming to The Red Pony after The Grapes of Wrath or Of Mice and Men may be a little perplexed. It reads more like a connected series of four short stories than a novel and only the first of these features the red pony of the title.

The introduction by John Seelye in this Penguin Classic edition is, by turns, enlightening and annoying. He argues against other critics' readings of Steinbeck as a sentamentalist, examines whether The Red Pony is autobiographical and expresses amazement that Steinbeck managed to write it whilst caring for his elderly parents - a task many female authors face without plaudits.

I'm a fan of short stories generally and enjoyed this book. It does lack the strong plot of his more famous works but I loved the scenes of a ten-year-old boy growing up on a farm, particularly the fragile friendship between Jody and his grandfather described in the final pages. I also liked the new cover - a photo of a group of farm hands. A great improvement on the bright red horse's head previously!
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on 9 November 2012
This is a wonderful little book. I had first read this as a schoolgirl and the tale had stayed with me which is why I chose to buy the book many years later! I was not disappointed. I recommend this book most highly.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 29 November 2012
I have read the short version and the long version (which includes a middle chapter about an old Indian man). Neither version is one I would give a child, unless I wanted to put them off horses for life.
The boy on a small ranch is given a pony which contracts a disease called strangles and dies.
The old Indian steals an old horse that's worth nothing and rides off on it.
The boy is promised a foal from a mare but when the mare's foaling goes wrong a ranch hand bashes her head in and cuts her open to rip out the foal.
Still think it's suitable for young people? It's not.
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