No Small Thing

No Small Thing

4.3 16
by Natale Ghent

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Full of heart and humor, this coming-of-age tale is no small thing — the tale of a boy's search for love and identity in the face of longing, abandonment, and uncertainty.

When twelve-year-old Nathaniel and his two sisters discover an ad in the paper for a free pony, they can hardly believe their luck. But what will their mother say? Mom's been having a


Full of heart and humor, this coming-of-age tale is no small thing — the tale of a boy's search for love and identity in the face of longing, abandonment, and uncertainty.

When twelve-year-old Nathaniel and his two sisters discover an ad in the paper for a free pony, they can hardly believe their luck. But what will their mother say? Mom's been having a hard time ever since Dad walked out on them four years ago. But caring for a pony might keep Nat and his older sister, Cid, from bickering, and it would mean so much to eight-year-old Queenie. It takes some serious persuasion — and a promise to use Nat's paper route money for the pony’s keep — but Mom finally relents.

And so begins a year of self-discovery, as Nat struggles to deal with his father's absence; look out for his younger sister, who is "different"; and recover from having his heart broken by a rich, pretty girl from school. Life is not always easy, but Nat knows that Smokey, his very own pony, will be waiting for him at the end of each day. Or will he?

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Sue Reichard
12-year-old Nathaniel has been the man of the family ever since his mom and dad's painful divorce. He must be father and brother to his older sister, Cid, and younger sister, Queenie, who has developed a way to escape the hardship by dancing around. He does not like it when her friends and others mock her for this odd behavior. When they discover someone is giving a horse away for free, Nat insists, even though his mother does not know, that the three of them will retrieve the horse and board and feed him with the money Nat receives from his paper route. Mom does find out, but she is too preoccupied to worry about it. Between work and paying the bills, she is just glad the children have something fun to do. Smokey is a fine stallion, but soon is causing chaos in the barn. Nat must now come up with money to have the horse "taken care of." Local vets provide care for less than the regular cost, and at least now Smokey is not causing problems. The children discover through trials and errors that it is "no small thing" to care for someone or something one loves. A fire in the barn causes more problems for the three, though no harm comes to Smokey. Mom struggles when the electric company shuts off the power. The family is a good example of how when everyone works together miracles can be accomplished. This is a wonderful story for horse lovers and for those who want a little romance, some teenage angst, but also a hopeful ending for characters who have worked so hard. An excellent novel for the middle school library.
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-For all those horse-crazy readers, this is a satisfying exploration of how the realities of owning an animal and the responsibility for its care and training affect a family that is already struggling to make ends meet. Nathaniel, 12, explains how he and his sisters, Cid, 14, and Queenie, 8, acquire a pony as a giveaway. Their mother is so laden with her own pain (the children's father has deserted the family) and her efforts to eke out a living that the kids leave her out of the loop on many of their decisions. The inevitable major battles as well as true caring among the siblings are equally present, as are peripheral adults both kind and mean who influence the plot. This is one of the best horse stories to come along in recent years, and one of the few with a male protagonist. In the end, the author makes it clear that losses and gains go together in life, but that one's own actions and choices matter most of all.-Carol A. Edwards, Douglas County Libraries, Castle Rock, CO Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
How much tragedy equals a pony? Four years ago, Nathaniel had a pony, a nice house and a Dad-but now his Dad is gone and his mother struggles to keep the family fed. When he sees an ad in the paper for a free pony, he and his two sisters set their hearts on it, but getting it brings more challenges. Subplots involving an abused horse, a rich girl, the missing dad and the strange behavior of one of Nathaniel's sisters all promise more than they deliver, and some of the details about the pony, Smokey, and the barn where he's kept ring false. (Among them: he's a stallion at the outset, and his owners hand him over to the three children without ever speaking to an adult.) Nathaniel is a nuanced character but doesn't grow within the story; the ending falls from the sky. Gorgeous writing, subtle characterizations and a few very good scenes make this book initially seem better than it is. (Fiction. 10-14)Junior Library Guild Selection

Product Details

Candlewick Press
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.32(w) x 7.82(h) x 0.92(d)
780L (what's this?)
Age Range:
10 - 14 Years

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Read an Excerpt

Ma keeps her back to me. I can see she isn't going to budge, which might explain what I say next.

"You have to let us keep him. That pony is the best thing to happen to us in years. If Dad were here, he'd let us keep him."

This makes Ma turn around, all right, and she looks at me like she's staring at the devil himself. She doesn't yell these next words. She spits them through her teeth.

"I don’t want to hear another word. You take that pony back tomorrow."

"Please, Ma—"

"Get out and leave me alone!"

Ma's words hit me like broken glass. I feel the anger rise up inside me, and before I know what’s happening, I'm screaming. "I hate you! I won't take the pony back! Not tomorrow or ever! Dad left because of you, and I don't blame him, you old witch!"

Ma stares at me, her jaw dropped, the wooden spoon she was using to stir the cocoa still in the air. Queenie and Cid just stand there, their faces all shocked and disbelieving. I slam out the mudroom door and stumble down the stairs in my bare feet. I feel like a big fist is hitting me in the stomach. I think I’m going to throw up. I start to run and I keep running, past the corner store and through the park. I run past rows and rows of houses that all look the same, past the church and the jailhouse. I run until I'm far away from everything and my lungs feel like they're going to burst.

I keep running, but no matter how fast I go, I can't outrun the image of Ma's face. The terrible words stab at my brain over and over. I collapse on the lawn of a house where the windows are dark, and then I start to cry like I have never cried before. I can't stop my body from shaking. "I'm not like my f-father. I'm not like my father."

NO SMALL THING by Natale Ghent. Copyright (c) 2005 by Natale Ghent. Published by Candlewick Press, Inc., Cambridge, MA.

Meet the Author

Natale Ghent is an award-winning journalist and author of the middle-grade novel PIPER, which was chosen for several "best of" lists in her native Canada and in the United States. NO SMALL THING was shortlisted for the Canadian Library Association's Book of the Year and the Alberta Rocky Mountain Book Award. Of NO SMALL THING, she says, "I'd been carrying the story in my heart for years before it finally begged to be put on paper. I wrote it for my family and for anyone, young or old, who has struggled for something they believe in." Natale Ghent lives in Toronto.

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No Small Thing 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 16 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I've read this book time and time again, and it never ceases to toy with my emotions. Natale does a great job at making you feel like you're part of the story itself, watching everything from the sidelines. This book is definitely an amazing read, and I told many of my friends about it. (:
lautner-lover More than 1 year ago
This was an amazing/ touching book! It is also one of my favorites!
whateverss More than 1 year ago
This book is simply amazing.
If you love this book, and want to find out more,
check out "All the Way Home" by Natale Ghent, the sequeal!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
overall, whe i read No Small Thing, I enjoyed if very much. This bok had a very good mesage. All the similes and Metaphores tied good together. I had many favorite scenes in this novel. This is when they get the horse, Smokey. I lik the simile when they say 'The house was as yellow as a danalion.' The author overall did a good job creating the characters in the book. They were both interesting and believable. My favorite character was Nat. He could stick up for him self. Nat is very smart and isn't shy. I learned that being indepentdent can help. If you get things done by your self then you get great rewards. This is what No Small Thing was about.
Guest More than 1 year ago
i enjoyed reading my independent reading book, 'No Small Thing.' The characters in this book which were Nat, Cid, and Queenie, are very interesting and believeable. my favorite character would have to be Nat. This is because he sort of reminds me of myself. We both have an older sister, and we both have a horse. I know what what it feels like to get bossed around your sister. I also know how much work it is to take care of a horse.I think that the author did a pretty good job of creating the characters because they fit the story really well. In this book there were a lot of good scences. One of my favorite scences was in the very begining when the kids get Smokey, and thier at the house. In this scene the kids are very happy when they got the pony, and i know how excited they must have felt, because i know i was when i got my horse. Another one of my favorite scences was when it snowed and they wanted to train smokey to pull the sled. It took them a while but they didnt give up and they trained him to pull the sled. In conclusion this was a pretty good book. I would have recommended this book to anyone whoo likes a good simple story. Also anyone who likes reading stories about horses.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Reading this book was a positive experience for me. I like books that have ponies and I really enjoyed reading about Smokey. The author was able to hold my interest because in the sentence 'the time the first green of spring is pushing up the snow,' it gives a lot of detail and a good discription of spring is coming. I would recommend this to my friends if they like horse and if they would want to read about horses.
Guest More than 1 year ago
i am 14 and i think anyone will have a great time reading this book it is about two kids who see a horse in the newspaper and decide to buy it without their mom knowing. they have great fun and trublesom times with this horse, but they manage to keep it and take good care of it. i own a horse myself and i know i wouldnt beable to pay for the boarding bills by myself. this is a great book and i think everyone will enjoy it. 'no small thing'
Guest More than 1 year ago
I Love This Book! I'm a horse lover but my sister isn't and when she read it she wanted it to be a whole series. Read this book and you won't regret it!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was the best book I have ever read!! It was a great story about a boy, his family, an amazing pony that changes their lives, a dad that left, a beautiful girl, and many more things that I could write a page about. It kept me on the edge of my seat the whole time. Natale always twisted the plot so you did not know what would happen next! The description and detail were great and vivid that I always had a clear picture in my head. It was touching and outstanding. I was totally lost in the book, that when I was done I didn't know what to do it had such an impact on me. It is great for all readers 10-14. I am a rider myself but I think it is a great book for everyone.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was the joyable book that i have read. This book was OUTSTANDING, i had so much fun reading this book. Yes my favorite animals are horses. This book brought a tear or two to my eye. I sometimes feel like i am Nat and im a girl. Yes I have a little sister who is around the littlest girl about 5 or 6. And she wants a horse. I read this book to her and she rialized how important this book was, and how much it realates to her. I hope to see more of these books like a series to No Small Thing in the future.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was amazing! Once I started, I couldn't put it down! I reccomend it to all horse lovers or anyone who has ever asked their parents for a pony.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This story is so beautifully told with such vivid detail that I found myself lost in it, completely absorbed. I think readers of all ages will connect with some very universal childhood issues faced by the characters, and feel their anticipation, joy, anguish and elation. This isn't just a book for kids who are horse-lovers, it addresses so much more about love, strength and acceptance despite family hardships and challenges. It's a wonderful book and I highly recommend it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Natale Ghent has an amazing ability to recreate the experiences and feelings of someone who is still growing up. She did it in Piper and she's done it again. No Small Thing is that rare kind of book - a believable and realistic story that still has a certain kind of magic. It shows the troubles shared by Nat and his two sisters - three children being raised by a single mother with very little money in small-town Ontario - and it shows their fights, but it also shows the fun they have and the love they share. The scenes with Smokey, their pony, are great - full of suspense, joy, adventure and freedom. No Small Thing reminded me a great deal of my own childhood. It was a real pleasure to read; I highly recommend it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
No Small Thing is a beautiful, touching story. It held even greater meaning for me because it is based on a true story. The struggles of the main character and his sisters are believable and funny, even though so much of the book is sad. The book really captures what it feels like to be a kid trying to make sense of his world. It has humor and heart and so much more. That's no small thing!
Guest More than 1 year ago
best book i have ever read in my life