ALL ROYALITIES DONATED TO REDWINGS HORSE SANCTUARY Jane Ayres has created a series of books based on a group of horse crazy teenagers and a run-down riding school. Matty, Spike, Ronnie and Gina share an obsession with horses coupled with non-horsey parents. They spend all their spare time helping at the local riding stables in return for the occasional free ride while dreaming of one day owning their own pony. Mark arrives at the stables with a fantastic pony and even a trailer so his father can transport them to shows, but he doesn't even like horses. He certainly doesn't deserve Snowstorm in their eyes. The girls discover a horse roaming loose and experience "owning" their own pony, if only for a short while before the owner re-claims Moonlight. Along the way they attend the County Show on Moonlight and learn that looks can be deceiving. A well constructed easy read. I would say it could be read to younger children and independently read and thoroughly enjoyed by pony mad child of 8 - 12 years old. I devoured the Pullien-Thompson books of a similar type when younger and found this a nostalgic read.
The first in a great series about four fun-loving pony-mad girls and their adventures. In this story find out what happens when the girls' plans to save up together for a pony of their own are put on hold when they actually find a mystery horse. Surely finding their dream horse can't be that easy....?
This book is fun, light-hearted, fast-paced and modern but at its heart it is a good old-fashioned traditional pony story. I have read a depressing number of modern pony novels which have tried so hard to be exciting and glamourous that they have both lost the true spirit of the pony story and created worlds and characters which are so far removed from the real lives of their young readers, as to be virtually impossible for them to relate to.
But this is a story that horse-loving youngsters can really get to grips with. Our heroine Matty is a girl whose problems - being unable to afford a pony of her own, having parents who don't understand her passion, and falling for a boy she thinks doesn't like her - will be shared by many readers of a similar age. Matty is a very likeable and sympathetic heroine and the chatty diary-like first person narrative increases the sense of identity the reader feels with her. We really root for her through her all her ups and downs. She's a great role model for youngsters, being compassionate, caring and willing to work hard to get what she wants. However she is no goody-goody or paragon of perfection. She gets into trouble for doing things without thinking and is not above breaking a rule or two in a good cause. In short she is a nice normal fun-loving horsy girl whom we can all relate to and care about.
For me the heart of a good pony story should be the love the heroes or heroines have for their horses, and the fun that they can share together. Too many stories nowadays seem to forget this in their desire to provide the heroines with top class winning machines or 'designer' steeds. In this story, although the girls do compete in competitions, the focus is firmly on their relationship with the horses. From the beginning, when Matty lovingly describes the horses at the riding school, throughout horse rescues, falling in love with horses and learning to part with them, horses are at the fore-front of the story.
However, though this book is at its core a traditional pony story, it is in no way out-of-date, boring or slow. The young characters are sassy and modern and the story has enough twists and turns and is fast-paced enough to keep even easily bored children hooked. There is plenty of humour and a lightness of tone which makes it a pleasure to read. The simply written style will appeal to less able readers, but cannot disguise the fact that the author is in fact an accomplished writer whose characters and situations really come to life.
In this book, Jane Ayres has created a pony novel which manages to combine the best of both traditional and modern pony stories. It will appeal to a wide range of readers, both youngsters and oldies re-visiting their horsy youth. A definite cut above the average teen pony story!
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