Sparkling Jewel: A Branches Book (Silver Pony Ranch #1)


Sparkling Jewel: A Branches Book (Silver Pony Ranch #1)

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 Sometimes grandparents are made too old or too old school in chapter books, mere outdated caricatures.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….


Pony Pals


Ponies on Parade (Pony Pals, Book 38)

By Jeanne Betancourt, Illustrated by Richard Jones


Published by: Scholastic Paperbacks; Scholastic Version edition (November 1, 2003)

Available in: paperback, school & library binding

At the time of this review there were 38 books in the Pony Pals series, as well as an accompanying six-book series, Pony Pals Super Specials.


At full gallop.

Ponies on Parade (Pony Pals #38) is the last book in a classic series that is still saddled up and ready to go for today’s young readers.

Those familiar with this blog know that I don’t automatically give a positive nod to older books. But Pony Pals is different. Author Betancourt laces her girl-centric, horse-crazed books with tangible emotions, authentic problems and just enough originality to keep them fresh and lively a decade or two down the trail.

Ponies on Parade, for example, deals with a fun little art contest. But that’s just the withers to this very full-sized horse tail… um, tale. Harnessed within this plot are the day-to-day challenges of a child with dyslexia. Also, we see the aggravation of boys who constantly tease girls, and sometimes it’s quite hurtful emotionally or physically. As the story progresses, the three girls who make up the “Pony Pals” are faced with ethical choices of ignoring a problem or stopping to do the right thing, even when they don’t want to. Parents are responsible, kids are sometimes irresponsible and pony care is clear and correct.

This series also is interesting because it caters to older chapter book readers. With short text, pictures and third grade reading level, it’s spot on for the genre. But the characters are all middle school age. This makes Pony Pals the perfect fit for girls who are either less advanced or reluctant readers in the third through sixth grades. For them, this little extra carrot of encouragement is a blue ribbon choice of reading material.

What do you say teachers, parents and writers? Use the comment below and let’s chat….