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Secret of the Night Ponies

Secret of the Night Ponies

4.6 19
by Joan Hiatt Harlow

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Thirteen-year-old Jessie Wheller is a girl who knows her heart and will do everything that she can to follow it. With her Newfoundland pony, Raven, and Newfoundland dog, Blizzard, Jessie is never at a loss for faithful companions. Jessie's grandmother is always pushing her to be a "lady," but if being a lady means leading a life without adventure,


Thirteen-year-old Jessie Wheller is a girl who knows her heart and will do everything that she can to follow it. With her Newfoundland pony, Raven, and Newfoundland dog, Blizzard, Jessie is never at a loss for faithful companions. Jessie's grandmother is always pushing her to be a "lady," but if being a lady means leading a life without adventure, Jessie will have none of it.

When Jessie realizes that a little girl named Clara is being neglected, Jessie knows that she has to help. And when Jessie discovers a herd of wild ponies captured in the woods, she knows that she and her friends must come to the rescue. But going head-to-head against the town's bully to save Clara and the ponies is no small feat, and Jessie will need more than just a little bit of luck.

The rugged shores of Newfoundland in 1965 set the scene for award-winning author Joan Hiatt Harlow's tale of a girl and her boundless affection for ponies.

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Janis Flint-Ferguson
It is the setting and the culture of this novel that makes it such a fascinating read. Set in Newfoundland in the 1960s, it introduces readers to a way of life that was being disbanded and to the wild ponies who were caught in the middle of the social and cultural change. Thirteen year old Jesse Wheller lives on one of the many islands that make up Newfoundland. Many of her friends have been displaced from other outlying islands to the growing town of Gull Harbor. As families move, at the request of the Canadian government, to the promise of modern electrical and telephone services, they leave behind the wild ponies who had helped to settle the region. Jesse becomes aware that crotchety Melloy McCrumb is mistreating his young foster daughter Clara and in stepping in to help her, she finds that McCrumb and his neighbor are bringing ponies into town but keeping them in a distant pasture. It is not too long before she learns that they are intending to sell the ponies for their meat. She and her town friends then embark on a secret rescue to save both the ponies and Clara. The story is filled with the expressions and dialect of the region as well as the poignant stories of folks like Jesse's grandmother, who left the outer islands to live closer to "civilization." While focusing on the historical aspects of the setting, the novel still tells a compelling story about a feisty girl who seeks to do what is right. In the end, she learns something about herself and what she loves most about her life in Newfoundland. Readers, too, will learn something about the importance of family, friends and our Canadian neighbors. Reviewer: Janis Flint-Ferguson
School Library Journal
Gr 4–8—Strong-willed and compassionate Jessie, 13, loves her island home of Newfoundland. With the help of Blizzard, her dependable dog, she and her family rescue three shipwreck victims. The survivors repay her later on with their friendship and support when she befriends an abused child, and when she devises a daring and dangerous plan to save some wild ponies from being rounded up for the slaughterhouse. As in Star in the Storm (S & S, 2000), Harlow captures the rigors and rewards of island life, this time in 1965, with interesting characters, an empathetic heroine, and a fast-paced plot.—Carol Schene, formerly at Taunton Public Schools, MA
Kirkus Reviews
For 13-year-old Jessie Wheller, life on a Newfoundland farm provides nonstop excitement. She rescues shipwreck survivors, saves an abused orphan and steals a herd of ponies from their lawful owner. As part of Canada's Household Resettlement Program, whole populations of some of Newfoundland's smaller islands are being moved to the mainland. Herds of Newfoundland ponies have been abandoned on the islands to starve, but one villager decides to round them up and sell them for meat instead. It's not clear who really owns the ponies, or why selling them for meat is worse than letting them starve, but that doesn't matter-after stealing the ponies, Jessie gets her American cousin to launch a big media blitz about them, which makes everything OK. To this ethical confusion add poor writing, central-casting characterization, excessive use of exclamation points and a profound lack of horse knowledge-but with "ponies" in the title, it'll sell anyway. If the author had concentrated on the resettlement program, in which actual houses were floated to new locations, she might have ended up with a good story. (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Product Details

Margaret K. McElderry Books
Publication date:
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File size:
2 MB
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt


Cries in the Night

A-ROOOOO! Above the wind — a howling, like a wolf baying at the moon! I shot up in my bed, listening. A-ROOOOO! There it was again!

When a dog yowls at night, someone is going to die. Shaking, I put my bare feet on the cold floor and headed for my older brother Erik's room and then decided against it. "This is 1965," he'd say. "Don't tell me you still believe those old Newfoundland pishogues, Jessie. They're silly superstitions."

A-ROOOOO! This time the howl turned into a bark, and I knew it was Blizzard, our Newfoundland dog. We sometimes let Blizzard stay outside at night, curled up with his tail around his nose.

"Jessie Wheller!" Dad called. "Shut your dog up! His barking is waking us."

"Yeah! We're trying to sleep," Erik groaned from his room.

"I'll bring him in, Dad," I answered. I lit the lantern on the bedroom table and tiptoed down the stairs, carrying the light ahead of me. Long shadows fluttered around on the walls and floor from the flame inside the lamp. Blizzard yowled again. Why was he crying like that? I asked myself. Something had to be wrong.

Blizzard must have known I was coming because he was scratching and pawing the door. I yanked the handle and nearly fell backward as the door gave way to the wind. The porch was piled with drifts of snow. "Come on in, Blizzard," I said. I held up the lantern and Blizzard's eyes glistened at me. He was standing with a worried look on his face, and his head tilted quizzically. "Come in, boy," I said again.

But my dog headed down the steps and into the deeper snow. He looked back at me again and barked anxiously.

"What's the matter?"

Blizzard wagged his long, wet tail and started off toward the meadow — stopping, looking back, and then barking again.

"Stop that!" I yelled. "Get back in here."

Blizzard sat down right where he was, held his head up high, and yowled. He wanted me to follow him for some reason. But I wasn't about to go out into a snowstorm dressed only in my nightgown. I went back inside to change into warm clothes.

Should I tell Dad where I'm going? I wondered. No. Dad had worked hauling wood all day, and I knew he was right tired. And Mom would make me stay in and wait until morning.

I dressed quickly, and then, remembering the new flashlights my cousin Sandra had sent me from the States, I took one from the drawer and turned it on.

Once downstairs I pulled on my boots, then headed out into the storm. "Now, what is it that has you all afire?" I asked Blizzard, who was waiting nervously.

Leaping and struggling in the drifts, he headed toward the east. Where was he going? There was nothing out there. I followed him, pulling my scarf up over my nose to keep the spattering snow from stinging my face. Suddenly I stopped dead in my tracks. Blizzard was leading me to the edge of Devil's Head, the rocky crag that plunged three hundred feet or more to the sea.

"No! Come back, Blizzard!" I yelled frantically.

Blizzard turned and raced back to me. Tugging the sleeve of my jacket with his teeth, he dragged me closer to the edge.

"Help! Help!" cried voices from far below the precipice. Except for the chute, a narrow, dangerous trail, the cliff was a wall of sheer rock. Who could be down there on this stormy night?

I flashed my light on Blizzard, who continued to bark wildly at the rim of the chasm.

Cautiously, I moved closer. "Hello!" I yelled. "Who's there?"

"Help us!" a man called from below. "We're shipwrecked. And we're freezing!"

"Is there a path we can climb?" came another voice.

"It's too dangerous!" I flashed the light down the rocky wall, and I could make out people at the bottom of the cliff. "I'll get help. How many of you?"


"I'll bring my father and brother!" I yelled.

"Hurry!" came the response. "The tide's coming in. We can't last much longer."

"There's a cave just above you on that rocky trail!" I screamed over the roaring of the wind. "Try to get into the cave!" I flashed the light at the cave opening, which was several feet above the shoreline where the group was huddled.

"We see it! Please! Get help quickly, or we'll die!"

I turned to rush back for help, slipping and sliding in my struggle through the deepening snow. Blizzard hesitated to leave the voices at first, but then he came running and was soon ahead of me, barking as he leaped through the drifts.

"Oh, please, God," I prayed breathlessly. "Help us to get back in time to save those people."

Copyright © 2009 by Joan Hiatt Harlow


Trapped at Devil's Head!

Once inside the house I flew up the stairs. "Wake up, everyone!" I screamed. "There's a shipwreck!"

My mother opened the bedroom door. "What's going on?"

"Blizzard took me to the cliff. There are folks down there shipwrecked, and they're wet and freezing."

Dad was already pulling on his heavy pants over his long underwear. "Get your clothes on, Erik," he said to my brother, who stood sleepily in the hallway. "Quick! Those people can't last long in this weather!"

Mom piled blankets and sweaters into a nunny bag — the waterproof sack Dad used when he traveled by boat. "Go storm the kettle and fill the teapot," Mom ordered me.

I ran to the kitchen, poked the fire, and then poured the steaming water from the kettle into the teapot that was already filled with tea bags for breakfast.

Dad and Erik, who had on their thick gansey sweaters, sat on the kitchen chairs and pulled on their boots. When they ran out the door, Dad had heavy coils of rope over his shoulders and the nunny bag under his arm. Blizzard was pacing back and forth and whining.

Mom stood nearby. "Don't head down into the chute, you hear, Walt? That path is icy, and you'll never make it in the dark. Then who'd come and rescue you?"

My grandmother peered down the stairs. "Did I hear you say Walt's going down the chute?" she hollered. "Has he lost the brains he was born with?"

"Oh, hush, women!" Dad said to them. "Stop your wailing! This is an April storm. The snow will probably be gone by noon. In the meantime we've got to get them up safely." He turned to my mother. "Bertie, you get a hot stew warming. They'll be starvin' when we get back." He patted Erik on the shoulder. "Now you and Jessie get Raven out of the barn. Harness her up to the sled and bring her to Devil's Head."

"No!" Mom said in a huff. "Jessie's not going."

Dad ignored her. "Those folks won't be fit to walk in this snow once we get them up out of the gully. Jessie, you come along and bring them back here on the sled."

He and Erik headed into the meadow, and the beams from their lights bounced in the darkness. Blizzard bounded ahead, barking and howling.

Mom put her hands on my shoulders. "Stay away from the edge of the cliff, Jessie Wheller. Promise me!"

"I promise, Mom."

She sighed, shook her head, and turned to tend the kettle.

I dashed out the door. The snow had let up, and I could see a dying moon peeking between the clouds. Dad and Blizzard were already out of sight.

By the time I reached the barn, Erik had my horse, Raven, bridled and harnessed. Raven threw her head and snorted, her breath making clouds of steam in the cold air. I grabbed one of the larger sleds and attached it to her harness. Erik threw his rope into the sled and hopped on while I hoisted myself onto Raven's back and clicked the reins.

Dad was flashing his light down the side of the cliff when we arrived at Devil's Head. "They're in the cave," he told us. "Let's get these blankets down first. Then we'll figure out how to rescue them."

Erik peered into the dark chasm. "The chute's covered with ice. No one can climb down or up the cliff."

Dad attached his rope to the nunny bag and then went to the edge of the cliff. "We're sending down blankets!" he yelled through cupped hands. He turned to me. "Jessie, you hold the light on the bag as it drops."

I did as I was told and watched as Dad lowered the rope bit by bit. In the bright beam of light I could see someone leaning out precariously from the cave opening and arms reaching up toward the bag as it slipped downward. I held my breath when the bag momentarily snagged on a jut-out of rock. But finally it made its way to the waiting hands at the cave's entrance.

"Thank God!" came a cry from the abyss.

Dad lay on his stomach and looked over the edge. "I'm going down the chute to lead them up," he said finally. "It's the only way to save them that I can see."

"No, Dad!" I yelled. "The chute is all ice. You'll break your neck!"

"At least wait until daybreak, Dad," Erik pleaded. "The spring sun will melt the ice."

"They may not last that long," Dad said.

"You told Mom you wouldn't go down the chute!" I could feel the tears welling up. I knew how dangerous the cliff was, even in the summer on hot, dry days. I looked down at the foaming tidal waves that swirled in circles around the rocks. "Don't go, Dad."

"There's no other way, Jessie. Tie one end of this coil of rope onto my belt. I'll go down, careful-like. Once I get there, I'll fasten the rope to them, one at a time, and they can try to climb up the trail. If they can't, then you hitch the rope to Raven and have her pull each of them slowly up the face of the cliff."

"Don't go, Dad, please."

"Hush, Jessie," Erik whispered. "He's made up his mind."

Blizzard came to me, whining and pawing. I sank onto my knees in the cold snow, knowing right well that nothing I said would change Dad's mind. I buried my face in Blizzard's fur and waited in silence.

Copyright © 2009 by Joan Hiatt Harlow


Angels or Fairies?

When I peeked out from Blizzard's fur, I saw Erik hitch the cord around Dad's waist. Then Dad disappeared into the chute and down its treacherous trail.

Erik called out every so often, "Are you okay, Dad?"

"I'm fine," came the echoing answer.

I sat shivering next to Blizzard. The only sounds were the wind and occasionally Raven's soft whinny. After ten or fifteen minutes I went to her and put a rug on her back. "Stay warm, Raven," I whispered, patting her nose. "You must be cold just standing here." She snuggled her head against my jacket and whinnied gently.

"Raven has a long fur coat. I'm the one who's about to freeze," Erik complained. "Flat on my belly in the cold snow, ready to fall headlong into an icy abyss." He crept closer to the edge and hollered, "Dad! What's happening?" "We're coming up the chute," Dad yelled. "There are two of us. Keep watch and hang on to that rope."

Erik stood up. "Stay close to me, Jessie. Let's haul the rope around that tree," he said, pointing. "It will give us leverage if they fall."

We circled the rope around the tree, and then I stood behind him, bracing my legs as we grasped the thick cable.

"Just hold on. If you feel a big yank, you'll know they're falling. That's when we'll have to pull hard," Erik warned.

Holding our breath, we clung to the rope as it tugged under the weight below. Then, to our relief, Dad's head appeared over the rim of the gorge. He had lost his hat, and he was panting. An elderly man, struggling on the slippery rocks, emerged after him. I could see that the rope was attached to the man and not to Dad.

"Take Mr. Blair home right away, Jessie," Dad ordered breathlessly.

Erik and Dad helped the stumbling, frail man onto the sled where he collapsed. I covered him with a rug, then climbed on Raven's back. "How badly is he hurt?"

"Hard to tell," Dad said. "At least he was able to make it up the chute. We'll know more when he gets to the house. Hurry, Jessie, and then get back here the once." Dad slapped my horse's flank. "Home, Raven!"

Raven tugged forward and then carefully made her way through the snow. It was almost daylight now, and I could see the smoke from our chimney curling upward where the morning star still glistened. "We're almost home!" I yelled to the injured man on the sled. There was no answer. Was he still alive?

Mom must have heard the jingles from the bells on Raven's harness, as she threw open the door. "This man needs help!" I called as I slid off Raven's back.

Mom and I helped Mr. Blair to sit up. He was bleary-eyed and shivering as we half carried him into the house and then practically dragged him to the settle Mom had set up near the stove.

"Once we get you warmed up and some hot tea into you," Mom said, "you'll be fine in no time, Mr...."

"Blair," I said. "He's Mr. Blair."

"Pull his boots off, Jessie," Mom said, "and his jacket. I hope your dad didn't go down the chute. Did he?"

I avoided her gaze and concentrated on the knotted leather ties on Mr. Blair's boots. Mr. Blair smiled weakly as I pulled them off and removed his jacket.

"Jessie, get a cup of tea for this pitiful soul," Mom ordered.

"Before long you'll be too hot, next to this fire," I told him as I poured tea into a mug.

He smiled at me, and his blue eyes crinkled. "Here you are, Mr. Blair," I said. "Be careful now. We don't want you to burn yourself." I lifted him up and held the cup of tea to his lips. "Mom has some good beef stew warmin' up for you."

Mr. Blair sipped on the tea, and then he spoke for the first time to my hearing. "Thank you all for your goodness, especially your little girl here."

Little girl! I was nearly fourteen!

"We're thankful to the good Lord that Jessie found you," Mom said as she spooned a plate of stew from the pot simmering on the back burner.

Mr. Blair looked at me. "Jessie, I do believe you must be an angel, or perhaps one of the little folk — the fairies." His voice trailed off.

Angels? Fairies? Mr. Blair must be a bit bewildered from his experience in the chute, I decided. "I've got to get back to Dad. He'll need me." I got up but stopped before I got to the door. As silently as a phantom my grandmother had appeared, her shiny jet-black hair flowing over the shoulders of her white nightgown.

"Who is this?" she asked, gesturing at our guest.

I knew that if Gran didn't approve of Mr. Blair, she'd make him feel as comfortable as a fish in a net.

"This is Mr. Blair," I said briefly. "Mom will explain everything, Gran. But I've been gone a half hour, and they need me out at the chute." I headed for the door as fast as I could.

Copyright © 2009 by Joan Hiatt Harlow

Meet the Author

Joan Hiatt Harlow is the author of several popular historical novels including Secret of the Night Ponies, Shadows on the Sea, Midnight Rider, Star in the Storm, Joshua’s Song, and Thunder from the Sea. Ms. Harlow lives in Venice, Florida. For more information, visit her at JoanHiattHarlow.com.

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Secret of the Night Ponies 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 19 reviews.
ponygal49 More than 1 year ago
I am an avid fan of Joan Hiatt Harlow. I was first in line to get this book and read it in one day. I'm looking forward to her next book, which I think is coming out in November. I never liked history, but now I love it. Annie
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My 9 year old Grandaughter and I read this book together over a period of a month when she would spend the night. We loved it! The characters, plot, story was very entertaining. She looked forward to bedtime so we could continue where we left off!! Highly recommend this story.
Caroline Johnson More than 1 year ago
this is a great book u got my nook for my bday and its awesome you will love this book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book rocks. It is very compelling. I loved this book and so did my daugther. Its about friendship and a stunt to save horses.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is sure to please you
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
An adventure of friends that are trying to save not only ponies, but (spioler alert)save an abused child from her adopted "parents"(if that's wat you want to call them.) They beat her, starve her, and don't let her take showers so she'sfilthy :( Read this daring, adventurous book about several friends that save the day.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It is about a girl how is the bravest of all people in gul hurber
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really loved this book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I luv the part when it says jessie named one of the rocks old hag also the sad thing is that mr.mccrumb wants to kill the newfoundland ponies :( and i think hes the one that shoul be killed
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book. Would reccomand.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is amazing! I wish that i could jump into the book! By:HG
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