Thursday, December 28, 2006

Review: Year of the Black Pony by Walt Morey

1976/2006, Bethlehem Books, 171 pages, softcover

Absolutely absorbing! This well crafted story of a boy, a pony, and his new family takes place in Oregon in the early 1900’s. Year of the Pony is a wonderful story about a young boy’s dream to tame a wild black pony, while at the same time having his own heart tamed by a stranger he must learn to trust.

After his father dies, 12-year-old Chris, his younger sister Ellie and their determined mother begin their new life with Frank Chase. In the process, they all learn to open themselves up to the true meaning of trusting love. Chris soon finds out that not all men have his father’s violent temper and that his new father is actually a kind and good person.

Chris has often dreamed of owning a beautiful wild pony that runs free near his family’s homestead. “The sun made his black coat glisten like satin. The big muscles across shoulders and legs rippled like light flashes on water.” Whenever he steals the chance, he goes up on Christmas Ridge to watch the wild black pony thunder past with a herd of horses.

Through the kindness and ingenuity of his new father, Chris is able to eventually own the black pony. But is it a good idea? The owner wanted to shoot the pony because no one is able to ride this seemingly untamable beast and in fact threw one of the owner’s new ranch riders, breaking his leg.

His practical mother is not at all happy. The horse is yet another responsibility that will eat their precious resources while not providing any helpful work. The pony seems to be just another cause of strife between Chris and his mother, dividing them even further apart.

Through several unsuccessful efforts to mount the pony, Chris is ready to lose hope. With the help of Frank and a clever idea of his mother’s, Chris begins to realize his dream of riding the black pony. Just when things start to look up, the pony becomes deathly ill after saving Chris’s life during a terrible blizzard.

More than the desire for a beautiful pony, Chris wishes he could have a real family. In the end, the black pony is instrumental in binding the family together as they all open their hearts to the healing presence of love, patience, and kindness.

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