Friday, June 10, 2016

Silver Pony Ranch: Sparkling Jewel by D. L. Green, illustrated by Emily Wallis

There are school visit books and there are Barbie books. School visit books are titles I buy, recommend personally, and basically consider worthy of taking on school visits. They're not necessarily all award-winning literature - I like to recommend fun chapter books, cute and gross nonfiction, and all the wide variety of books that makes a library welcoming to all readers.

Then there are Barbie books. I buy a lot of them. They circulate like crazy. They are what the patrons want and I am here to serve my community, not my own tastes and ideas. But I don't sit down and recommend individual Barbie books to kids - I just point them to the tub.

This new Branches series is a Barbie book.

Tori and Miranda are visiting their grandmother's ranch for the summer. Miranda is crazy about the dogs while Tori is obsessed with the ponies. Gran has a new pony, Jewel, who is quite a handful and Tori can't wait to ride her! But Gran says it's not safe. Tori (and Miranda) constantly break the rules, let Jewel out of her stall (Tori leaves the stall unlocked twice) whine when they don't get their way, go out at night to search for a puppy after Gran tells them to stay in, etc. In short, I wanted to smack them.

The cover and interior black and white illustrations are very 90s. There are several inaccuracies in the art - the dog, Lady, is described as a collie but pictured as a sheepdog. After Tori is told to stay away from Jewel, because she might kick, she sneaks into the stall and is shown braiding Jewel's tail. Gran says she's disappointed she disobeyed her, but proud that she's tamed Jewel and then lets her ride the pony. I don't know much about horses but this strikes me as dicey, to say the least.

So, why on earth would you buy something like this? Well, it's pure wish-fulfillment for horse-crazy kids. The little squabbles and fusses of the girls make it feel more realistic and a seven year old girl who loves horses and has probably never done more than a pony ride at the fair is not going to be critical. She's just going to enjoy imagining herself riding the spirited Jewel.

Verdict: Is this great literature? Heck, no. It's not even particularly good literature. But will kids enjoy reading it? Yep, absolutely. I read plenty of trashy books myself. It's a perfectly good "Barbie book" and as such I'll be purchasing the whole series.

ISBN: 9780545797658; Published 2015 by Scholastic; Purchased for the library

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