Reviews provided by Syndetics
Publishers Weekly Review
As in The Quicksand Pony, picture book author/artist Lester sets her multifaceted second novel on an Australian cattle farm. Resourceful, responsible Dusty Riley loves working alongside her father, a proud, fourth-generation cattle farmer, and her mother, a former showjumping champion who now trains other people's horses. Most of all, Dusty loves the Snow Pony, which she and her father found wild near their mountain property and brought back to their ranch, and which Dusty herself has trained (horse-story enthusiasts will thrill to the classic encounter in which the wild pony, having bucked the experienced adults, permits Dusty to ride her). While Dusty and the Snow Pony triumph at various competitions, the scope of the novel extends beyond horse-mania. A three-year drought drastically reduces the family's income-and dramatically alters Dusty's father, who withdraws into the temporary solace of alcohol. Dusty also copes with outsider status at school and misses her only friend, now at boarding school in Melbourne. Lester braids the various strands of the plot into an exciting conclusion, involving a classmate stranded near the Rileys' mountain property, an accident and a tense ride through a snowstorm on the pony to fetch help. The author alternates between detailed, closely observed scenes and more general narration that chronicles the characters from a distance. The varied focus somewhat slackens the tension but also allows the story to cover more ground. Even if some of the Aussie references are difficult to penetrate, the writing successfully transports readers to an enticingly foreign milieu. Ages 10-14. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
School Library Journal Review
Gr 6-8-The high plains of Australia have been hit by a severe drought that has brought difficult times to the cattle farmers. Dusty Riley, 14, has always been her father's "right-hand man," but as the situation grows worse her dad begins to withdraw from his family, causing everyone more stress. Her only consolation is her love for her horse, the Snow Pony. The mare was a brumby, and now allows only Dusty to ride and take care of her. When the teen, her younger brother, and her father set out to bring the cattle down from the high country for the winter, they encounter illegal hunters who threaten their lives. Before the roundup is over, a serious snowstorm impedes their progress and Dusty and her pony prove their courage as they go for help. This fast-paced "horse and girl" adventure story has interesting, well-developed characters, and the tension among the family members is well drawn. The dangerous situations are well integrated into the plot, and the upbeat ending is plausible and satisfying.-Carol Schene, Taunton Public Schools, MA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Gr. 6^-12. Lester introduces readers to a willful Australian girl in this gripping adventure novel. Fourteen-year-old Dusty Riley (her cattle-farming father's "right-hand man") has "horses in her blood." But when she first spies the gray-and-white brumby she calls the Snow Pony, she knows she's a one-horse girl from that day on. The mare distracts her from the woes of her family, which was once tightly knit but is now fraying under the economic strain brought upon the farm by a three-year drought. Dusty has to grow up fast to deal with her once proud, increasingly troubled father, who relies upon her to win competitions for prize money. Despite her sense of alienation at school, and a spate of near disasters, Dusty shows her fortitude. Horse lovers will certainly revel in Lester's vivid descriptions of cattle farming, peppered with Aussie slang, but this outreaches the average horse story. Tethered to powerful themes of family, faith, and self-reliance, this also captures the beauty and unpredictability of wildness and a family's connection with the land. --Karin Snelson
Horn Book Review
With their farm going under in a drought, DustyÆs smart, indomitable dad turns to drink. When he gets hurt, Dusty rides for help on her once-feral horse, the Snow Ponyùbut will the Snow Pony return to her feral ways? Details about the self-sufficient, tough Australian ranchers and a number of emotional hooks keep the pages turning. From HORN BOOK Fall 2003, (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Kirkus Book Review
A somewhat incoherent adventure set in Australia's plains. Dusty, 11, is thrilled when her father catches the wild Snow Pony and brings her to their farm for her horse-trainer mother to break. Despite careful work, Snow Pony retains a savage streak, yet she and Dusty win prizes galore--fortunately, since drought has reduced their cows and their income to gauntness. Dad guzzles beer; Mom rages; brother Stewie withdraws. Snow Pony is Dusty's only constant. Part Two is a story of a different color. Dusty and Stewie accompany their sobered father on a cattle round-up. After a series of accidents, Dusty and a friend must ride for help out of the snowy bush--Dusty on Snow Pony. Crisp writing and terrific adventure scenes propel the reader (but for an Aussie glossary!), but it's neither a whole story nor only one story; the layers mingle, and lack suspense. Still, horse lovers will persevere. (Fiction. 10-15) Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.