Title: The Quicksand Pony
Author: Alison Lester
Publisher: Allen and Unwin
Published: 2nd March 2021
Synopsis: Alison Lester’s classic horseback adventure, set in the rugged yet romantic Australian coastal bush.
‘Biddy, I’m sorry, we’re going to have to leave her.’
‘What?’ Biddy struggled out of the quicksand. ‘You can’t leave her! The tide’s coming in. She’ll drown!’
But the pony is trapped and Biddy is forced to go on without her. Next day the only signs of Bella are hoofprints in the sand with small footprints and the paw marks of a dog. Who could be so small and be alone on this remote beach?
Biddy’s search takes her into wild, secret country where she discovers the truth about a mysterious disappearance that happened many years ago.
Alison Lester’s picture books are loved by families all around the world. In this timeless Australian children’s classic, she proves herself as a born storyteller.
Winner Highest Ranked Book, WA Young Readers Book Awards 1999 AU; Shortlisted National Children’s Award, Festival Awards for Literature 1998 AU; Shortlisted Book Data/Australian Booksellers’ Association Book of the Year 1998 AU
The Quicksand Pony was first published in 1997, and has been reissued this year in a new edition with illustrations by Alison as well. Biddy loves horses and her pony, Bella. Yet the coastal country town she lives in also harbours a secret and a mystery – a young woman and her son who disappeared years ago. What has happened to them, and where are they? Biddy’s story is interspersed with Joe’s and they run almost parallel to each other, going back and forth as the two journey towards discovering each other. When Biddy’s pony, Bella, gets stuck in the quicksand during a muster, her parents make her leave Bella behind. When Biddy goes back, small footprints are there and Bella is gone – where is she, and who is alone on the beach?
Alison’s exploration of loneliness and isolation is contrasted against family and friendship. It is a story of two very different children, and their different lives, and the way they feel as though the existence and lives of the children are interwoven and related – but how? It is a little bit of a mystery as the two separate stories start to come together, as the clues start to line up. At first, there are a few things that seem like they’re out of place, yet they’re not. It is these little details that make the book feel magical and ethereal amidst its natural setting in the Australian landscape. It also feels timeless – as though this story could happen at any time. There are no references to date it, and this gives it the timeless feel that invites the reader in and allows them to imagine themselves in the story.
The setting could also be any coastal country town in Australia. Alison has created a beautiful story and one readers of all ages will enjoy.