“It was my bout with lightening that inspired Pa to become immersed in the photographic sciences, which is how this all began.” It is 1860 and twelve year old Silas Bird is living a quiet and reflective life with his Pa in the wilds of Ohio. Under Pa’s gentle tutelage Silas is being schooled in the curiosities of the natural world and the wonders of science, his only other companion on their isolated farm is a ghost called Mittenwool. This peaceful existence is shattered when Pa is kidnapped one night by three anonymous riders. Frightened and alone Silas watches the dawn arrive and is bewildered to find a strangely beautiful horse in the yard. Believing it has been sent by his father he takes it as a sign that he must set out to rescue Pa.
Silas’s quest becomes a Wild West adventure that grips the reader as we accompany him on a perilous journey that demands great courage and fortitude. Danger is met with determination and cruelty with compassion - empathy radiates from the pages. Pony blurs the genres of historical fiction/ Western/ghost story and fantasy and it works, as Palacio with the gentlest touch skilfully binds her novel with the universal themes of friendship, kindness, belonging and loss.
Palacio’s sensitively drawn characters, the hint of mystery and a well-executed plot are sure to engage readers from middle school up - all the way up to adults. A satisfying and moving read.