Thursday, August 30, 2012

Winter Pony by Ian Lawrence

There are some kids, usually girls, who love books about horses.  I am not one of them.  I never did go "horse crazy" as a child.  I would not have normally picked up a book with a beautiful white horse on the front.  But this book is by Ian Lawrence, and I would basically ready anything by Ian Lawrence because he is an amazing writer and storyteller.  His book, Lord of the Nutcracker Men, is one of my all time favorite books.

This is the story of the ill fated attempt of the Englishman, Robert Falcon Scott, to be the first man to reach the south pole.  He was racing the Norwegian, Roald Amundsen in 1910-1911.  Admundsen used dog sleds, but Scott decided to use motor vehicles, dogs, and ponies.  This story is told from the point of view of one of the ponies whom them men named James Pig. He was born a wild pony in Russia and was captured and used in a mine for several years before he was purchased by Scott's party.  As it turned out all of Scott's ponies were old and broken down before Scott's agent purchased them. As they make their way south one after another of the ponies come to an unfortunate end.  It is a heart wrenching book, but a beautiful book, too.  Lawrence is so good at depicting deep emotion without sounding sappy.  The core of the book is James Pig's relationship with his handler, Patrick.  It was difficult for the horse to trust a human because he had been mistreated in the mines. During the trek Patrick shows the pony kindness after kindness, until in the end James Pig would have done anything for the man.

I liked the book and it made me cry, but there was one thing that bothered me just a little bit.  Lawrence anthropomorphised the horse a little too much.  The pony understood things about human culture that he couldn't have known with his limited experience with people.  Lawrence depicted him as if he were a human in a horse's body instead of a horse.  Still, the book was so well written that I was willing to forgive the one shortcoming. (246 p)

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