Review Blog

Jan 23 2011

The wish pony by Catherine Bateson

cover image

Woolshed Press, 2008. ISBN 978 741663242. Available as e-book: ISBN: 9781742741161. (Ages 10-13) When the older neighbour comes in to look after Ruby when her mother has to go to hospital, Ruby is defensive and put out. Things have not gone well. Her best friend, Sarah, has abandoned her for the new girl in the class, Mum is always ill with her pregnancy, Dad is wrapped up with his wife and Ruby feels left out. Magda from across the road smells and asks strange questions, but soon the two become firm friends, Ruby finding in Magda the friendship which has deserted her at school. Magda gives Ruby her wish pony, and the little figurine takes on a life of its own on Ruby's dressing table, where it hears Ruby crying and hears her wishes. Gradually Ruby's life turns around, her baby brother is born, somewhat premature, her parents begin to listen to her, she takes on more responsibility, and she makes new friends. All simple, but each in itself is a huge stepping stone for Ruby as she works out what is important in her life. And as she develops, so the importance of Magda declines.
A stunning story about loss, growing up and friendship, The wish pony had me on the verge of tears, wishing along with the figurine, that Ruby would find her feet in her muddled world. All of the children in the story are subject to change, change in their circumstances, change in their school friends, change in their homes, and each has to cope with those changes, and luckily for some, Magda is there to help them along.
Bateson's writing is always impeccable, finding the right series of words to describe what is happening and the characters' feelings. In this book, she gives a voice to children whose lives are not going along smoothly, and helps them see that things will right themselves. I wrote this review in 2008 when this wonderful book was first published, and on reading it again, my review holds. This new edition, published alongside Magenta McPhee, with similar covers making them a pair, will entice new readers to Bateson's amazing writing.
Fran Knight

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