This children’s novel looks at how human-animal relationships sometimes defy logic.
In 1948, young Jed’s rancher employer buys a sick, starving pony named Dusty, and Jed falls in love with it almost immediately. Mr. Ural plans to sell the pony after he nurses it back to health, but that doesn’t stop Jed from developing a deep friendship with it. Jed takes odd jobs at Mr. Ural’s farm and other places in Canton, Ohio, to earn money to buy Dusty before he’s put up for auction at the county fair. But the day before the auction, Jed comes up short: He has only $500, and Mr. Ural expects to get at least $600 for the pony. After almost giving in to despair, Jed attends the auction in the hope that his $500 will be enough, only to find himself engaged in a tight bidding war that surpasses his budget. Soon he and his friend Tommy come up with a unique solution to the difficult problem. This short chapter book, full of charming black-and-white illustrations, may leave some readers confused about its setting and time period, which aren’t clarified immediately. But the story’s theme—about the friendship a child can form with an animal, even if that animal isn’t his—will be easy for young readers to identify with. Westover is surprisingly adept at capturing a young boy’s point of view, and her glossary and discussion topics make this book suitable for reading groups or classrooms. Although the plot is somewhat slight, with little action until the intense auction scene, there’s a lot for students to discuss here, and some moments that adults will appreciate as well.
A slim novel for young readers that deftly imagines the love of a boy for his pony.