Cover Image: Pony

Pony

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I am blown away how this author manages to do what they do. This book gets in your head, your soul, right under your skin. Such a wonderfully written book. Loved every page.
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Twelve-year-old Silas is awoken in the dead of night by three horsemen who arrive unannounced to take his father away. Silas is left shaken, scared, and alone, except for the presence of his companion, Mittenwool . . . who happens to be a ghost. But when a pony shows up at his door, Silas knows what he has to do. He will set out on a perilous journey across a vast American landscape to find his father—a journey that will ultimately connect him with his past and future, and the unfathomable mysteries of the world around him

I'm truly lost for words.  This book was a fantastic journey of emotions, action and intrigue.  It appealed to me on so many levels. 

 The characters.  young Silas who was intelligent, kind, compassionate and wise but still innocent in so many ways.  His ability to see ghosts and how he works out life around that.  His pa, who may or may not be someone infamous, his father's love for him throughout this is shown in spades.  In fact, I could write an essay on how much I loved this book.  

I'm sitting here now with tears rolling down my cheeks and it wasn't the only instance through the book for this, my heart burst and bled in equal measures.  

I read this in 2 days, I just couldn't put it down right from the first few pages.  

If there's any book to read this year, this is the one.   

Now in my all time top 5. 👏👏👏
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Unfortunately this didn’t really do much for me. It was a pleasant enough story about a young boy’s adventure. It started really well but didn’t hold my attention and I found myself willing it to end. The book was well written but just not my cup of tea although I can see why it would appeal to others
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Exciting, poignant and skilfully woven coming-of-age historical adventure and ghost story, set in the American Wild West in the 1800s.

Silas has an unusual and solitary childhood. After his mother died giving birth to him, he grows up alone, except for his father and his best friend, Mittenwool, who happens to be a ghost. Not fitting in with other children and being singled out by the narrow minded teacher, he instead receives an unorthodox but enriching education from his father. 

But one day their wotld is shattered when three strangers approach on horseback and take his father away. When the pony later returns to Silas by itself, he decides he has to follow and help his father. 

Although the people, places and events are fictional, they could all have happened based on the author's extensive research of events around the time, imaginatively intertwining the pioneers of photography with the rise of counterfeiting, using photographs from the era as inspiration for her characters.
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WOW! what a beautifully written book, I have devoured it. The characters are all brilliant and I especially love Silas and his ghost friend Mittenwool, they really do make the story. I've read some reviews saying other readers weren't that keen on Silas but I definitely have to disagree, I thought he was a lovable little boy who only wanted to go on an adventure with Mittenwool to find his father. The plot was very well researched and I enjoyed reading about the American wild west in the 1860's and the trials and tribulations which the characters faced along the way. Children and adults alike will love this book and it's one of those books which can be read over and over again. I really did enjoy it and I would like to thank NetGally and Puffin for the ARC, I really appreciate it.
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This is very different from the brilliant Wonder. I wanted to love it as much, but I found it a struggle to get in to. It opens dramatically but I then found it slow going and kept giving up then forcing myself to come back to it. It just wasn't for me, but I can see it is a great adventure story that many others would enjoy and be able to empathise with and I hope it is a great success.
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Wow. If you've read wonder you will know how amazing.this author is! I absolutely loved this and it felt like such a privilege to read it early. 
As with wonder, the feelings you get towards certain characters are so strong and powerful. 
It was totally different 5o what I was expecting, with this being a historical fiction book compared to the contemporary fiction that wonder brought us, but I loved both in equal measure. 
Sure to be an absolute! classic!
Thanks so much for the opportunity to read and review!
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Pony is the latest long-awaited historical fiction novel from Palacio and the first book set outside of the world and characters of her 2012 debut Wonder. Set in 1860, we are introduced to the protagonist of the story, the introverted 12-year-old Silas Bird who is struck by lightning while standing in front of a giant oak tree and now has an imprint of it firmly and permanently on his back. He resides with his talented but reclusive father, a Scottish immigrant, bookmaker and experimental photographic scientist, as well as a friendly and protective teenage ghost called Mittenwool who is only able to be seen by Silas himself. However, one day his settled life is completely upended when three strangers on horseback arrive at the family's remote cabin near the fictional Ohio town of Boneville. 

They take Silas' father with them and he promises his young son that he will be back in a week, however, the next morning Silas awakens to find one of the abductors' white-faced Arabian pony outside and takes this as an omen believing his father has sent it. So he follows the pony away from the relative safety of the farm to find his lost father who he agrees may be in trouble. He departs with the reluctant Mittenwool in tow with neither knowing exactly what they are getting themselves into. Not only does this expedition mean braving the elements it also means stymying his fear of the unknown and the darkness and treachery of the nearby time-warped woods where he happens upon a variety of unexpected and uninvited ghosts and three outlaws he comes to believe are the same people who took his beloved father. Will Silas and his father be reunited? 

A captivating, richly imagined and delightfully compelling historical adventure, Pony takes readers on an exciting yet distinctly beautiful journey through the vast American landscape. It is a story of adventure, friendship and the invisible bonds that connect us, and readers will meet a young boy that only Palacio could envision. It is a story of resilience and bravery, an adventure story in the most classic of ways, part American western, part ghost story, but, at its core, it's a story about love. Silas teaches us to choose courage just as he does while embarking on his desperate search fuelled by the indomitable power of love, and in this poignant tale set against the backdrop of the 19th-century American frontier, the author weaves excitement, peril, friendship and just a hint of magic into an epic and unforgettable story for readers of all ages, which will sit alongside books such as The Book Thief, War Horse and His Dark Materials. Highly recommended.
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R. J. Palacio’s Wonder remains one of my favourite books ever and its film adaptation was stunningly beautiful too. So, I was very excited to be approved for her latest release, Pony.

Set in a fictional US town during the Civil War, Silas Bird is woken in the middle of the night by three strange men on horses, who take his father away for a supposed important mission. Left alone with only his dog Argos, his best friend Mittenwool who is a ghost only he can see and a beautiful but strange looking pony, Silas sets off on a mission into the forest to find his father and answers that he didn’t even know he was looking for.

Each of the sections of the book are prefaced by an old photograph. Silas’ father created daguerrotypes and there is quite a bit of discussion on early photography methods. These pictures are haunting but they have a strange allure that adds an extra dimension to the story. Seeing these faces frozen in a time gone by gave the whole thing a ghostly feel that was somehow both chilling yet comforting. It was odd but it made for a fantastic, unique reading experience.

Silas was struck by lightning when he was younger and as a result, he has the image of a tree on his back. This triggers his father’s scientific research into new materials as an inventor and photographer. Silas’ survival of a phenomenon which kills the vast majority of its victims has borne amazing things such as his father’s professional progress and perhaps Silas’ own, unique abilities.

Silas’ friend Mittenwool is a ghost who only Silas can see and speak to. His story does reveal itself eventually and I was fascinated about how that linked into Silas’ own history. Mittenwool is a very loyal friend and source of protection for Silas. I was sure that Silas would be ok, even when he ventured off alone, because Mittenwool was always watching and would ensure that no harm befell him.

There is a part where Silas talks about the history of the places he’s travelling through. An old man called Enoch Farmer, who he meets in the forest, tells him that the land was once in the possession of Native Americans and Silas expresses his horror that their land was stolen from them. I think a lot of Silas’ powers come from his unparalleled empathy and sensitivity to the pain of others, which was perhaps not the norm in 1800s America.

Silas’ mother died giving birth to him but he appears to have been able to see spirits since that day. Of course, I wasn’t sure whether to believe Silas when he claimed to remember seeing her die but something about the atmosphere that Palacio creates in this book gave it some credibility. I fully believed that Silas was a highly unique, special being and he perhaps would have been treated as a deity, had his abilities been taken seriously in his time. Even in 2021, Silas has a not-quite-human quality to him that made anything he said seem possible.

The title character of the book is of course, Pony. Pony is an enigmatic, striking pony who shows up not long after Silas’ father is taken away. Silas believes that Pony has been sent by his father to enable Silas to come and find him. Pony is undoubtedly some kind of magical creature. He seems to contain a fountain of hidden knowledge and perhaps some other-worldly powers, which may or may not come to fruition within the book. I was completely mesmerised by him and was desperate to get to the bottom of who Pony was and why he had attached himself to Silas and his mission. We get an answer as to where Pony came from but something was telling me that it wasn’t the real story.

Things get very tragic and violent in the race towards the end and Silas turns to Pony for comfort. The friendship between Silas and Pony was beautiful to watch and I’m sure that anyone who has ever had a unique bond with an animal, particularly a majestic, powerful creature like a horse, will instantly relate to it. I knew that Pony would be with Silas forever and offer a kind of pure, uncomplicated connection and lifeline that the boy would always be able to rely on in the toughest times.

Silas continues to see and communicate with spirits into his adult life and he learns so much from them. Like Wonder, Pony is full of stunning language and echoing wisdom that transcends the story and characters themselves. Palacio is a master at writing valuable life advice in a beautiful way and there were several sentences that made my heart soar.

Pony is a gorgeous, sprawling story full of family secrets, unwavering loyalty and courage and the magic of lifelong friendship. The setting is wildly removed from that of Wonder and the story is much more complex but it somehow retains that sparkling light that Palacio’s debut has. It’s thoroughly transporting, exciting and educational and I can’t really ask for much more than that. Due to violent and potentially frightening content, I would definitely say that Pony is strictly for readers aged 12 and over.
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Such a touching book, this is wonderful coming-of-age exploration of a young boy growing up in isolation in 1860s American wild West. Silas finds friends where he can and makes a life after a difficult set of adventures leave him adrift and without family support. The magical touches of the book and the total sensitivity to the protagonists makes for a very moving read - keep your tissues close by, it''s a rollercoaster and a heartbreaker that will leave you sobbing and uplifted all at the same time.
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Labour of Love
Wonder author RJ Palacio on why it took so long for her latest novel, Pony, to hit the shelves 

By Jane Vorster

HER publishers didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. For two years one of their star authors, RJ Palacio, had been hard at work on a new novel – one that after the success of her smash-hit bestseller Wonder was guaranteed to fly off the shelves – and now here she was telling them that she’d destroyed the manuscript because she was unhappy with it.
“I’d taken a wrong turn somewhere in the beginning, and the pacing was off,” the American writer, whose real name is Raquel Jaramillo, tells us.
But was there really no way of fixing it?
“The whole structure was wrong. So yeah, I threw it out. And I don’t mean that metaphorically: I had 400 pages of the printed-out manuscript full of all my handwritten notes and addendums, and literally trashed it.”
After that she put it aside to work on other projects but all the time her abandoned book continued to haunt her. Last year, when the world went into lockdown, she returned to it, and within three months she’d written the book that had for so long eluded her.
“When it finally came out, it came out not like a trickle but like a flood,” says the mother-of-two who lives in Brooklyn, New York.
Set in Midwest America in the 1860s, Pony focuses on a 12-year-old boy named Silas Bird who goes on a quest to find his beloved father after he’s abducted by bandits. He travels on a mysterious white-faced horse named Pony accompanied by his best friend Mittenwool, who it turns out is a ghost.
It’s a survival story, classic western and ghost story all rolled into one ¬so it’s understandable why it took Palacio so long to get it right. Although very different to her earlier work, fans will notice that Silas definitely has some things in common with Wonder’s Auggie Pullman.
“They’re both outsiders, or feel themselves to be. They’re both lonely. They both feel unconditionally loved by parents. They both have to find the courage inside themselves to face the obstacles put before them,” Palacio says.
But in Silas case it’s a matter of life and death.
“He’s in the wilderness. There are woods to traverse, ravines to jump, rivers to cross. There are gunfights, and literal outlaws trying to kill him.”
It’s aimed at young readers in the 10-14-year-old age group, but will very likely appeal to teens and adults too. 
“It’s a quick, epic read; a page-turner but it’s also tender, and full of love,” Palacio says. “I found it very comforting to write, and I’ve heard from people that it’s very comforting to read. We want to believe that love never dies and, well, that’s what Pony is all about, in the end. Love is a journey without end.
Now, as Pony hits the shelves, how does she feel about sending her labour of love out into the world?
“I’m nervous and excited and also, if it’s okay for me to say this, deeply proud of the work. I wrote the book I wanted to write, the way I wanted it to come out.”

PONY
By RJ Palacio
Every once in a blue moon a book arrives and you know within just a few pages that you’re reading something very special. Pony, is one of those of books – how can you not be intrigued by a young narrator who has an image of an oak tree imprinted on his back as a result of being struck by lightning?
Right from the get-go, 12-year-old Silas Bird, the hero of this tale set the American Midwest in the 1860s, is every bit as captivating as Auggie Pullman, the much-loved protagonist from Palacio’s smash-hit bestseller Wonder. He’s sensitive, introspective and has this weird ability to see ghosts – which makes him a bit different.
But he’s also blessed with courage, intuition, kindness and loyalty which are going to stand him in good stead as he ventures far from home in search of his father, who has been abducted by bandits. There’s enough action to appeal to even the most reluctant of young readers but it’s far more than just a simple adventure tale.
“Ultimately, it’s a story about the connections we make in our lifetimes that last well beyond death—bonds of friendship, and love, that connect us to one another forever,” Palacio says.


Did you know?
Palacio’s 2012 novel, Wonder, sold over 13 million copies worldwide
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Twelve year old Silas’s father is kidnapped by three threatening outlaws on horseback – and only an Arabian pony returns. Silas is alone. Except not really, as he sees dead people, including his friend Mittenwool who has been with him since infancy, helping to take care of Silas since his mother died in childbirth. Much to Mittenwool’s consternation, Silas is determined to find his Pa and he enters the perilous forest. 

Pony is a coming-of-age story, an American West adventure story, and a ghost story exploring the bonds across time and space -- and it is steeped in historical research making the mid-1800’s setting seem completely authentic; I especially loved the details about the origin and development of photography, something Silas’s innovative father had learned about after Silas was hit by lightning as a child leaving an imprint on his back. 

This is a richly layered, heart-warming book with interesting characters, including the eponymous Pony, though I am not certain about this choice of title as for me Pony isn’t at the heart of the story. It’s all about Silas – his courage; his relationship with Mittenwool, his father and others; his harrowing journey into the forest and towards adulthood.

Highly recommended for Year 7 and up.
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This book had a magical feel to it and swept me away. It took me slightly longer to read than I expected but I did enjoy the characters and their journey.

Many thanks to the author, publisher and NetGalley for gifting me this arc in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.
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Having read the brilliant Wonder , I was really looking forward to this one.  I was not disappointed!
Despite quite a violent and ultimately tragic setting, the story is very sweet and heart warming.  Unlike one or two reviewers, I found Silas a very likeable character.  But I think that the real star is Mittenwool.  To say any more would give away a vital part of the story so I will just say that the two boys relationship makes the book.
I also found the delve into the history of photography fascinating.
Totally different to Wonder but in my view equally captivating.
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I was hoping for another unusual offering from this author and what I got was an historical novel which kept me glued to the pages and one i thoroughly enjoyed. I suppose it could be called a coming of age novel, an end of innocence, or an exploration of early photography and of the supernatural.  However this novel is categorised, it kept me reading and willing to recommend it to others.
In the mid 1850's in Boneville, lived a 12 year old boy named Silas Bird and his father  Martin. who was a clever scientist.  One night, 3 men took Martin away believing him to be a master forger - and so the story for Silas begins,
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After Wonder I had very high expectations.   The title isn’t something that would normally inspire me as I am not into horses and ponies - I fear this may put off some readers that loved Wonder such that they wouldn’t get as far as the blurb. Obviously it’s a perfectly good title for the book though. 

I enjoyed the structure of the book sections of  five chapters. The journey through the book was well thought out with lots of things wrapped up by the end in terms of Silas’ background. 

Thanks netgalley for the advanced reading copy.
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I adored Palacio's previous book 'Wonder' and it's a book I have reread multiple times. I was excited to read this book, but unfortunately I just felt disappointed (I know i'm in the minority based on the current reviews on Goodreads) 
It took me a long time to get into this book, I don't know if it was the writing style or the strange mix of genres but I just couldn't get my head around it. Even when I did start following it, I wasn't really enjoying it. I didn't connect to Silas and I felt the plot a little bit jarring at times. 
This really surprised me, as I said before, I adored the book 'Wonder'

This book just wasn't for me. Maybe, it just wasn't the right time for me to read it - I will try again some other time to see if I get on with it a bit better.
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This was a really pleasant surprise. It was a very quick and easy read but I found it absorbing and sophisticated , speaking to some quite nuanced themes that any adult can get their teeth into as they read with and discuss with their kids.

Atmospheric …. Would make a great little family film.
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Another brilliant novel by R.J. Palacio!

Wonder was a pretty spectacular and naturally, I have high hope with this new novel by the wonderful R.J. Palacio. Like Wonder, Pony is about bravery, kindness, courage and empathy, but in the other hand, Pony is totally different in so many ways - It was set in 1860 Ohio with some history element, and Pony was darker and more mysterious in my opinion.

Silas, the main character in the story, a 12 years old boy whose mother died soon after he was born. Silas was a not an ordinary boy, he has a ghost as a friend! Being able to see ghost made him very different to other children and he doesn’t fit in, but luckily, Silas has a loving and protective Father, who is a genius and a brilliant inventor. Together, they live, work, learn and read!

The adventure began on a strange night where Silas’s dad was being led away by a gang. Silas was determined to save his Father so he made a brave decision to follow after the gang, even though he was scared. Through some unexplained forces, he was able to navigate through the mysterious forest, with lots of surprises, twists & turns along the way! There are plenty of likable characters, but my favourite is Mittenwool, Silas’s ghost friend, I won’t spoil it here but I just love their friendships and the reason they became friends. 

The story is beautifully written, it is so heart-warming and encouraging. This is going to be another Middle Grade Classic!
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Beautifully written and poignant novel. Although the introduction seemed rather long, as soon as the plot kicked off I was engrossed and desperate to know what was going to happen. The setting was described so well that I could vividly imagine it and I loved the historical aspect to the storyline also. An enjoyable read.
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