Review Blog

Nov 22 2019

The painted ponies by Alison Lester

cover image

Allen and Unwin, 2019. ISBN: 9781741758894.
(Age: 4+) Highly recommended. Themes: Horses, Fairs, Farms, Family. Matilda adores staying with her Grandma, Lucky and playing with her set of painted ponies kept in a covered wagon each in their own stall. One of the set of six has a white star on its nose and Matilda asks Lucky about it. Grandma tells her a story of when she was young and her family owned a travelling show.
The family moved with the sun, along with the football playing dogs, the big horse called Hercules, the ringmaster, Uncle Remmy and Grandma, the trick rider, who could twirl a lasso and was called Lucky Star. Travelling cross the mountains they saw a group of wild, dancing horses, and even though they would have loved to keep them in their show, it was not possible. But in the throes of the cold winter months when the ponies were shivering with cold and could no longer dance, Mother and Uncle Remy brought them back to the show and trained them as performers. They were a hit and people came from far away to see them, but when summer came around, the ponies stared at the mountains, their home.
One night, Grandma loosed the rail on their fence and let them go, but hearing a whinny she saw that her favourite pony, the one with the star had remained behind to stay with the young girl, Lucky Star.
Award winning author illustrator needs no introduction with her range of beautiful family oriented stories of life on the farm. Horses and ponies have pride of place in all of the books and introduce city based children to the delights that these animals bring to a child's life.
Lester's charming pencil and watercolour illustrations reflect a life that many will only ever read about, but bring that life to the fore. Readers will love the tale of grandma's past life and her meeting and training the horses, they will learn some things about the wild horses in the mountains of Australia, and about their training, as well as the travelling shows that used to be a much anticipated form of entertainment in rural Australia.
Alison Lester was the first Children's Laureate, sharing that position with Boori Pryor in 2012, received the Dromkeen Medal in 2018, and was the recipient of an AM in 2019.
I can imagine readers looking closely at the illustrations of the animals in the book, turning to the glorious last endpaper which gives a more recent history of the ponies and the dogs.
Fran Knight

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