Farm girl Julie has long dreamed of having her own pony, and with her parents' permission, she labors hard to make enough money to purchase one of the famed Chincoteague Ponies, who are annually thinned by being rounded up and auctioned off in order to reduce pressure on their island habitat. Once at the auction, Julie is dismayed to find that all the ponies, including a beautiful pinto filly she's set her heart on, sell for prices beyond her meager funds. Her luck changes, however, when sympathetic crowd members contribute small sums that mount up, and when the filly returns for resale, the auctioneer declares Julie the buyer; the grateful girl then decides to earn enough money in the next year to pass the favor on to some other budget-bound pony seeker. There's not a lot of logic here, since if Julie couldn't get enough money in a year when she didn't have a pony to support and take care of, she's unlikely to earn more the next year (or even to make back more than the costs of the trip itself ), and it's never explained why her accompanying mother can't chip in herself or decides to allow the acceptance of the funds. The pony-acquisition story is nonetheless one that will appeal to horse lovers, and the brief overview of the famous Chincoteague Pony Penning Day will intrigue youngsters unfamiliar with this colorful event. The gouache and colored-ink art, bordered with tidy lines, is at its best with the ponies, who evince a dreamy, toylike charm that will go straight to the heart of young horse fanciers; human figures run to the stiff and cartoonish, and the watery elements lack any suggestion of fluidity. In an opening author's note, Jeffers explains her youthful fascination with the classic horse story Misty of Chincoteague (and includes a letter from its late author, Marguerite Henry) and states that the story is inspired by a real-life instance of auction-crowd generosity. Despite the book's flaws, this would double well with Doyle's Horse, reviewed above, and kids too young for Misty will want to start here.
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Jeffers, Susan; My Chincoteague Pony; written and illus. by Susan Jeffers. Hyperion, 2008; 32p ISBN 978-1-4231-0023-2 $16.99 Ad 4-7 yrs
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