Jan 15, 2014

Little Black, A Pony

by Walter Farley

I remember this book from my childhood- my grandmother had a copy at her house. It's out of print now so I was thrilled to find one for my own kids (I can't remember exactly where- a used sale someplace). Written by the author of The Black Stallion, this is a wonderful story about a boy and his pony.

The nameless boy who narrates the story loves his pony, Little Black. Then one day he decides to ride a larger horse, Big Red. The bigger horse can run faster and do more things, so the little pony gets left behind and starts feeling very sad. The boy frequently chastises his pony for trying to do things the bigger horse does, that could be unsafe. Finally the little pony runs away in the snow, and the boy follows him on Big Red. The pony has run across a frozen river and Big Red is too heavy, he breaks through the ice and the boy falls into the cold water. Only Little Black can save him. After the rescue Little Black is proud of his accomplishment and the boy promises to only ride him from then on.

It's a very sweet story about friendship and loyalty. I think children can well relate to the prevailing themes- feeling rejected when your best friend plays with someone else, the frustration of being told you're too little to do something, and the satisfaction of finally finding something you're good at. And of course any kid who loves horses is bound to fall in love with this book, as well. The sentences are short and simple, making it appropriate for beginning readers, but the story is a lot more complex and satisfying than most easy-reader books I see at the library nowadays.

One of the biggest things that makes a good children's book for me, is the quality of the pictures. The illustrations here by James Schucker are just excellent. It's only printed in three colors- black, red and green- but the varying shades of gray and how the green can be almost a yellow, the red approaching orange- actually provides a wide variety of color. Even though it feels dated and quaint I think it still looks very classic. The draftsmanship of the drawings- especially the horses- is excellent and since I like drawing animals myself I enjoy looking at these pictures and studying how the artist did them. He obviously knew horses very well.

Rating: 5/5    64 pages, 1961

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