Pony Tails is a collection of four stories, written by actress Susan Jameson, who obviously knows her ponies. Each story features a different native breed: Connemara, Welsh Cob, Shetland and Exmoor. There’s a common theme of girls and their love for ponies, but each of the stories plays out in a very different, but just as satisfying, way.
One thing they have in common is the sheer force and quality of their dialogue. The author has an excellent ear, and captures family bickering, conversation between friends, and business dealings equally brilliantly. In the first story, a Connemara pony is sold on and on as he’s small and backward. I loved this bit, when the colt is sold yet again:
“Sure, doesn’t little Maureen ride him on her own, and her not four yet?”
The dealer seemed to remember that little Maureen was “not four yet” last year either, but decided to let that pass.
The stories are full of acute bits of observation like that. There’s Wendy, now an Exmoor teenager involved with bikers who remembers her pony-mad girlhood, and Rosie and Charlie, desperate to help the poor young Connemara. Lucy bonds with a Shetland assailed by sweet itch, and Clare has a very torrid time with her new pony, a Welsh cob mare.
All these stories integrate the adults into the stories as well as they do the children: there are no extraneous characters simply there to move the story on. Everyone has their part to play. The author is also extremely good at reflecting family dynamics. In the Connemara story, Rosie and Charlie cause a family row by asking if they can have the poor little Connemara, Mickey. Their Mum accuses them of being selfish and only thinking of themselves; to Rosie and Charlie, of course, they’re being anything but, because they’re thinking of the welfare of the pony. And neither side quite understands the other.
These are four excellent stories, from an author who I hope will carry right on and give us more. This collection is one of the best things Forelock has published.
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Sue Jameson: Pony Tails
Age of main characters: 10-13
Themes: family relationships, change
Equine themes: native ponies, rescue, Pony Club, Shetland Grand National.
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