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Friday, June 25, 2010

The Pony Whisperer: The Word on the Yard by Janet Rising

The Pony Whisperer: The Word on the Yard by Janet Rising
Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Genre: Contemporary
Agre Recommendation: 10 +
Rating: Best Book
Reviewed by Snapdragon

Pia has always told her pony everything…but now he’s talking back!

It’s hard being the new girl in town—new school, new stable, new rivalries. It seems Pia’s only friend is her pony, Drummer. But horses can’t talk…can they?

Suddenly, all the horses are talking—to Pia! Now she can understand Drummer, and does he have a lot to say! Who knew this sweet-looking horse would have such an attitude. When news of Pia’s pony-whispering power spreads, her popularity grows and she finally feels like she belongs…that’s when everything starts to go wrong.

Horse lovers of all ages will find The Pony Whisperer enchanting. The tale of young Pia and her clever pony, Drummer, develops with pretty ordinary challenge initially: it is easy to relate to Pia's efforts to make friends in a new place, struggle with the changing relationships with her newly divorced parents, and meet that first potential boyfriend.

Drummer has challenges too. He wants to put a good hoof forward and impress that lovely Bambi mare stabled next to him... and suddenly, Pia gains the skill to understand Drummer, and hear his (often insightful) comments. Implausible though it sounds, from his first complaints, I couldn't wait to hear what Drummer would say next - as well as all the other ponies in the yard.

Pia is a thoroughly admirable main character. She is full of concern for others; she often places a pony's good over looking foolish herself. Any teen would understand the challenges Pia faces among those her own age, and admire how she struggles to cope. She's a genuinely nice person, and you can't help liking her. It seems like her magical ability will really help smooth the way for her at the new stable, but like so many good things, there is a dark side too. The attention her skill brings her can be vastly more negative than she ever expects. Can she keep using her skill for good, or is it only ever going to drive her further from the people that matter most?

The stable, fields, riding, and the assorted ponies with their various issues are wonderfully and realistically presented. Real riding problems, issues with tack, even equine illness all play a role. The story will delight any young rider, or would-be rider. Who doesn't imagine they understand just what their horse wants -- or wishes they could? I cannot wait for Ms. Rising's next book: The Pony Whisperer Team Challenge. This is easily the best YA book I have read this year, and likely the best overall.

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