By D. L. Green, Illustrated by Emily Wallis
Published by: Scholastic Inc. (August 25, 2015)
Available in: hardcover, paperback, Kindle, NOOK
At the time of this review there were two books in the Silver Pony Ranch series.
Sparkling Jewel: Silver Pony Ranch Book #1 is an updated, modern take on the classic girls-love-horses genre. And for those girls who do, this is an excellent early chapter book series.
The text is simple, with short sentences and easy vocabulary. There is a good amount of girl drama, usually ended with an exclamation mark. So although adults might cringe just slightly, young girls will likely eat it up. But not to fear, it’s not dumbed down: peppered throughout are call-out illustrations with tough or horse-centered words that would otherwise be hard for a beginning reader. Words like “currycomb,” “bridle”, and “reins.”
The story, as well, is simple, but it trots along quickly. We see sibling rivalry, examples of bad mistakes in dealing with animals, and a pleasant resolution. Particularly notable is the Grandma character, who is a Wellington boot-wearing, no-nonsense charmer. Sometimes grandparents are made too old or too old school in chapter books, mere outdated caricatures. But in this series, Grandma is an independent, 50-something, cut-to-the-chase rancher. She snores, has bad breath, and calls it like she sees it. You can’t help but respect and like her.
The real jewel here, though, are the illustrations. The black-and-white line drawings are spare but complete. Especially appreciated are all the contemporary details in clothing, cars, ranch tools, and tack.
As with all in the Branches line of chapter books, the production quality of this series is excellent. So although it is a simple, new take on an old tune, it is worthy nonetheless.
What do you say teachers, parents and writers? Use the comment below and let’s chat….