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The Snow Pony


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About the Author

Australian author Alison Lester is perhaps best known for her picture books. However, she captivated her audience with her first novel, The Quicksand Pony. In a starred review, School Library Journal called it "a gripping adventure story, a tale of survival, an engaging mystery, a touching animal story, and a family saga."


As in The Quicksand Pony, picture book author/artist Lester sets her multifaceted second novel on an Australian cattle farm. Resourceful, responsible Dusty Riley loves working alongside her father, a proud, fourth-generation cattle farmer, and her mother, a former showjumping champion who now trains other people's horses. Most of all, Dusty loves the Snow Pony, which she and her father found wild near their mountain property and brought back to their ranch, and which Dusty herself has trained (horse-story enthusiasts will thrill to the classic encounter in which the wild pony, having bucked the experienced adults, permits Dusty to ride her). While Dusty and the Snow Pony triumph at various competitions, the scope of the novel extends beyond horse-mania. A three-year drought drastically reduces the family's income-and dramatically alters Dusty's father, who withdraws into the temporary solace of alcohol. Dusty also copes with outsider status at school and misses her only friend, now at boarding school in Melbourne. Lester braids the various strands of the plot into an exciting conclusion, involving a classmate stranded near the Rileys' mountain property, an accident and a tense ride through a snowstorm on the pony to fetch help. The author alternates between detailed, closely observed scenes and more general narration that chronicles the characters from a distance. The varied focus somewhat slackens the tension but also allows the story to cover more ground. Even if some of the Aussie references are difficult to penetrate, the writing successfully transports readers to an enticingly foreign milieu. Ages 10-14. (Apr.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

Gr 6-8-The high plains of Australia have been hit by a severe drought that has brought difficult times to the cattle farmers. Dusty Riley, 14, has always been her father's "right-hand man," but as the situation grows worse her dad begins to withdraw from his family, causing everyone more stress. Her only consolation is her love for her horse, the Snow Pony. The mare was a brumby, and now allows only Dusty to ride and take care of her. When the teen, her younger brother, and her father set out to bring the cattle down from the high country for the winter, they encounter illegal hunters who threaten their lives. Before the roundup is over, a serious snowstorm impedes their progress and Dusty and her pony prove their courage as they go for help. This fast-paced "horse and girl" adventure story has interesting, well-developed characters, and the tension among the family members is well drawn. The dangerous situations are well integrated into the plot, and the upbeat ending is plausible and satisfying.-Carol Schene, Taunton Public Schools, MA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

"This fast-paced "horse and girl" adventure story has interesting well-developed characters, and the tension among the family members is well drawn."

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