The Forbidden Trail: Pine Valley Ponies by Kate Welshman, Illustrated by Heath McKenzie (Scholastic Press)
PB RRP $9.99
Reviewed by Jenny Heslop
Maddy is super excited. Today is the day she gets to start riding lessons at Pine Valley Ranch on her pony Snowy. But she is also a little nervous. Is she really good enough to be in the intermediate class? Will she ever be as good a rider as her mother was? And what is down the shortcut trail which makes it the Forbidden Trail.
This is the first book in a new series. From its eye-catching foil cover, to the charming and fun illustrations, to the story line loaded with horse riding fun, danger, bravery and rescue, the appeal for young girls who loves horses and all that world entails, is endless.
Maddy is a likeable heroine, as is her new friend Iris. I like that Maddy is following Mum’s footsteps but in her own independent way. The involvement of parents is realistic and there is a good amount of information about horses and their care without feeling that it’s being ‘dumped’ into the story line.
There is the clichéd mean rich girl, and sometimes it feels as though the story is following a formula – albeit one which engages and entertains children and there is a good balance between breezy fun and more serious moments.
Heath McKenzies’ illustrations are my favourite part of this book. He captures people and animals in a wonderfully light-hearted warm way but also portrays a feeling and personality which adds so much to the story.
Short chapters, illustrations, easy reading text, a great map of the area around Pine Valley Ranch, and profiles of the ponies and horses, make this a sweet beginner-reader chapter book for horse-mad girls.