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Magic Pony Carousel #5: Flame the Desert Pony
The fairground looked lovely in the misty morning light. It was in Chloe's local park, at the bottom of a hill. She gazed down on the colorful rides in delight as she and her dad made their way to the entrance.
"Come on—let's find an exciting ride!" she cried as soon as they were inside the gates.
"Don't you want to get a hot dog first?" her dad asked.
Chloe loved hot dogs. She was about to say yes, but one of the rides suddenly caught her eye. She gasped.
"'Barker's Magic Pony Carousel,'" she read out loud.
The carousel was painted in red, gold, and silver swirls, and the beautiful wooden ponies moved gracefully up and down under rows of twinkling lights. Chloe couldn't tear her eyes away!
"Is that a no?" teased her dad.
"Do you think I could have a hot dog after trying the carousel?" Chloe said.
"Oh, I think so," her dad said. "Why don't you go and get on board? We can find a hot dog stand after you've had your ride."
"Thanks, Dad," Chloe said happily. She didn't have any brothers or sisters to play with, but her dad made sure that she never felt lonely. He was always taking her to do fun things, and at home they liked reading detective stories together.
She skipped over to the carousel to choose a pony. The ride had just slowed to a halt, and one pony seemed to be gazing right at her. It was a stunning golden palomino with a creamy mane and tail and beautiful big brown eyes. From its pretty face with its slightly upturned nose, Chloe knew it must be an Arabian pony, and by the look of thesaddle and bridle it could have come straight out of the desert!
She ran forward for a closer look. The pony's saddle was covered in deep ruby-red velvet with a golden fringe all the way around the edge. The matching ruby saddlecloth was embroidered with palm trees and birds in shiny gold thread. Red and gold tassels dangled from the edge, and there were matching tassels on the breastplate and bridle.
"Wow!" Chloe exclaimed. At her local riding school, she loved helping to get ponies ready for shows. She wasn't a very confident rider yet, but she was really good at braiding manes and weaving pretty ribbons into the hair. She looked closely at the gorgeous saddlecloth. Whoever had made this must love decorating ponies as much as she did!
"Hello there!" said a deep, friendly voice.
Chloe whirled around and saw a tall man stepping down from the carousel. He was wearing a red velvet suit lined with green silk and a stripy red and green top hat.
"Hello," said Chloe. "Are you Mr. Barker?"
"I am indeed!" said Mr. Barker, his eyes sparkling. "Would you like to ride on my splendid carousel?"
Chloe nodded. "Yes, please. I'd like to ride the palomino, if that's okay."
Mr. Barker stroked his chin. "Well, that's fine by me," he said, "but we'll have to see what the carousel thinks."
"The carousel?" Chloe was puzzled.
Mr. Barker tapped his nose and leaned toward her. "It's a magic carousel, remember!" he whispered. Then he reached out and took a bright orange balloon from a passing balloon seller. With a flourish, he pulled a little pony-shaped badge out of his lapel. "Now, Chloe, let's see if your wish can come true!"
Before Chloe had time to wonder how Mr. Barker could possibly know her name, he burst the balloon with the badge pin. Pop! Chloe stared in amazement as a little pink ticket fluttered to the ground.
Mr. Barker beamed at her. "I think you'll find there's something written on it," he said.
Chloe could just see some swirly silver writing on one side of the ticket. She bent down to pick it up. "'Flame,'" she read, then looked up at Mr. Barker.
"What a coincidence!" he said with a wink.
Chloe ran over to the palomino. There was a name written on the pretty red headband. She stood on tiptoe to read it.
"'Flame'!" she exclaimed.Magic Pony Carousel #5: Flame the Desert Pony. Copyright © by Poppy Shire. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.