Horn Book Guide
This story is a humorous account of Sophie Grove's struggle to overcome her fear of horseback riding, make friends, and put up with her outlandish family. Occasional black-and-white cartoons highlight some of the funniest parts of the story. Many kids, not just horse lovers, will be able to relate to Sophie's hopes and frustrations.
Children's Literature - Sarah Maury Swan
Sophie is five when her eight-year-old sister Sharon if given a pony by their mother. The pony turns out to be diabolically mean. Stuck with a mean pony, Mom doesn't give up. She buys a horse named Sweetheart, but her favorite thing is to race back to the barn, preferably under low-hanging branches which will knock her rider off. Finally, the family ends up with yet a third horse, Fancy. This one has feet the size of pie plates. Sophie is a timid child to begin with, and she is shy about making friends. She ends up being friends with Melissa, who is not afraid of anything, except maybe the pony. Still scared of riding, Sophiewith some not-so-gentle prodding from her motherends up taking riding lessons. She begins to discover that she can control Sweetheart. In the end, she ends being able to ride both Sweetheart and Fancy. She's still scared, but she muddles through and finds she might like horses. She also ends up with another friend. The book is a fun read, but I was concerned about some of the horse "facts." Sophie explains that the horses have their hooves trimmed and shoes put on in the spring, but that the horse shoer doesn't come back until the fall, when he removes the shoes. Actually, horses need to have their hooves trimmed and the shoes reset every five to seven weeks, or they'll end up with all kinds of hoof problems. Their hooves grow all the time. Still, there's a lot of humor in this otherwise well-written book. Reviewer: Sarah Maury Swan
School Library Journal
Gr 4-7–Though most girls love horses, Sophie has had only negative experiences with them. Mom had purchased a pony several years ago for Sophie's older sister to ride, but Really turned out to be a mean-spirited biter. Sweetheart, a trick-playing Arabian, and Fancy Free, a huge and intimidating Western Buckskin, were acquired soon after. Sophie is frightened of them. Though schoolmates at first befriended her to ride her horses, the truth about these particular critters soon gets out. Only stubborn Melissa, who is determined to ride Sweetheart, and Rachel, who has no interest in the animals, stick around long enough to become true friends. Sophie has a stubborn streak herself. Finding inspiration in heroes like Lawrence of Arabia, she dreams of galloping across the beach at her island home in Maine. She is determined, and, after numerous riding lessons, ultimately successful. Charming but infrequent cartoons accompany the text. Though there are some flaws with the pacing, the book eventually hits its stride. The horses' personalities shine through, and they become the real supporting cast. Sophie narrates her adventures with self-deprecating humor and genuine emotion as she faces her fears, confronts a bully, and learns the importance of self-reliance, and her well-developed character makes this short and sweet tale memorable.–Jane Cronkhite, San Jose Public Library, CA
Sophie never wanted a pony, but her mother did; that's how Really (short for Really Mean), Sweetie and Fancy ended up in their yard. While she continues to refuse to ride them, Sophie endures several hair-raising pony adventures on the ground. Finally overcoming her fear, she mounts, only to fall off in every way possible. Gibson's debut should be knee-slappingly hilarious but isn't—Sophie's narrative voice is far too adult, which keeps every scene at arm's length. Her school and summer friendships with Rachel and Melissa are told rather than shown, with no real conflict among the girls to keep the plot percolating. Instead of following a narrative arc, the novel ends up as a collection of episodic chapters titled in picaresque fashion ("In which I suffer..."). With its undemanding narrative style and Dibley's occasional cartoon vignettes, this will entertain die-hard horse fans—that is, most ten- to 13-year-old girls. (Fiction. 8-13)