Title: The Snow Pony
Author: Alison Lester
Publisher: Allen and Unwin
Published: 2nd July 2021
Synopsis: An authentic, compelling bush drama classic from Alison Lester, set in the high snow plains of south-eastern Australia.
Only Dusty can ride the Snow Pony. And no one but Dusty will trust her.
Two years of drought have reduced the Rileys’ farm to a dirt patch and strained the family to breaking point. A trip to the mountains to muster their cattle promises a fresh start, but sudden violence erupts into the peaceful landscape. Now Dusty and her beautiful brumby are tested as never before.
A tough and tender novel about a family’s struggle to hold together during harsh times, and fourteen-year-old Dusty’s faith in a wild horse they said could never be tamed.
Short-listed YABBA Children’s Choice Book Awards 2002 AU; Short-listed KOALA (Kids Own Australia Literary Awards, NSW) Awards 2002 AU
Deep in country Victoria, Dusty and her family are running a farm, but after two years of drought, everything seems to be failing. Dusty finds a beautiful brumby – The Snow Pony, as she calls it, and decides she’s going to break it in so she can ride it in shows to help her family get money for the failing farm, as her parents argue about everything – leaving Dusty and her brother, Stew to try and navigate their way through this tough time. A girl at Dusty’s school, Jade, also comes into her orbit, and when a cattle muster in the mountains turns violent and tragedy strikes, Dusty, her brumby and Jade will have to find courage that they never knew they had to save the day in this beautiful ode to the country and horses by Alison Lester.
Much like The Quicksand Pony, The Snow Pony explores themes of isolation and mental health, family struggles and the way the country can reflect and impact us as humans. This story is an ode to the struggles of the country, the farmers and their families, but also to their bravery, and the ability of people to do what they never thought possible when faced with tough decisions. I know this sounds like a cliché, but this is what happens in this book – the characters are faced with a situation they think they can’t get out of, and they find a way to do so.
I really do enjoy gentle stories like this, that build up to something spectacular, and that celebrate the little things – making new friends, the small achievements in life, working together and finding your people, the ones who will stick by you no matter what. And the Australian spirit of helping out where we can – it evokes a sense of unity of strangers, albeit in the small community the story takes place in, so it is focused on Dusty and her journey, and what she sees in her life.
The feelings of isolation are universal, and readers today can relate, especially during the pandemic, when we’ve all been isolated, restricted and locked down in one way or another for the past year and a half. The isolation explored in this book is both physical and emotional, and we get a glimpse at what depression can do to a family, and how they fight to overcome it.
This is one of those seemingly quiet books that celebrates so much, and in such a simple and beautiful way for readers aged ten and over, allowing us a glimpse into a different way of living that is a reality for so many, and gives us courage to face up to the difficult things as Jade and Dusty do. One can be forgiven for thinking Jade is not a key character at first – because her role really comes into being in the part two of the book, and I loved the way her friendship with Dusty grew naturally. This is a great book for those seeking a gentle read that can give them some calm away from everything that is going on, and where they can see themselves as heroes at the end of the day. A lovely book, and a true Australian classic.