PreS-K—The little pony at the heart of this surprisingly affecting story is thrilled when he becomes a little girl's perfect birthday present. He loves jumping and running with her on his back—until the day he encounters a jump too high. The little girl falls, and he is declared too small for her. Her parents sell him to the circus, where he brings joy to thousands of children, but he never forgets his first owner. When the circus closes down and he is sold at auction, who should buy him but the little girl, now an adult and running a stable of her own. In lesser hands, the story would be pure schmaltz, but the simple, straightforward narrative in the pony's voice, combined with Dockray's soft, expressive watercolor and ink illustrations, makes it truly heartwarming.—Kathleen Kelly MacMillan, Carroll County Public Library, MD
A small pony recounts his melodramatic life.
The nameless pony is first given to a little girl on her birthday.They compete over fences and win, until they try a jump thatis "just too high." The girl falls off, and her angry parents sell the pony to a circus, where for years he partners with a dwarf in a clown act. When the circus disbands, the pony, now old, thinand pathetic, is sold at auction. His original little girl, now grown,happens to beat the same auction. She recognizes him, and, of course, they live happily ever after. At 48 text-heavy pages, it's long for a picture book, andthepacesuffers accordingly—several scenes, such as the opening with the pony and hisdam in a field, take up a lot ofpages but don't move the story forward. The emotional tone often feels forced or misplaced,as when the circusfails because the audience "stayed home, playing video games,"and the perspective seems more adult than child-friendly. Dockray's watercolor illustrations are better than her text.Animals and people are both lifelike and full of emotion, and she varies perspective and tone to convey changing moods. Overall, it's hard to see an appropriate audience for this one—small children won't sit through it, older ones will be bored.
You can only say, "Oh, the poor pony!" so many times. (Picture book. 5-8)