Spellbound Ponies (series)

Spellbound Ponies

Spellbound Ponies















Spellbound Ponies (series)

Magic and Mischief


Sugar and Spice


Wishes and Weddings


Fortune and Cookies


Ribbons and Rainbows


Dancing and Dreams


Stacy Gregg

HarperCollins GB, 2021

128pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

The ponies of Pemberley Stables have been bound by magic and each of them is trapped in time. Can two brave girls help get them back?

Each story in this new series for newly independent readers focuses on the plight of one of the ponies… Bess the highway pony is very good at robbing the carriages and loves life just the way it is; Prince the racehorse isn’t as speedy as he used to be and his love of fine dining isn’t helping matters; Sparkle the white pony has been magicked to be messy and can’t stop rolling in mud; and Champ the palomino pony has been magicked to be exceptional – or that is what he is telling everyone! Gus the riding school pony is very grumpy and Margot the dressage pony is getting all the steps wrong.   How can Olivia and Eliza help each one?.

With fairly simple plots  and capitalising on young girls’ love of horses and magic, this is a new series for those who are moving to reading independently yet who still need the support of short chapters and illustrations to consolidate their skills.  With the first two available now, and two more in early July, this is a great series to introduce young readers so they can while away the winter weeks ahead with reading.  They will put themselves in the shoes of either Olivia or Eliza or become their friend and be engrossed in the stories and waiting for more. 

Rosie-May Blue: Mayhem at the Pet Show

Rosie-May Blue: Mayhem at the Pet Show

Rosie-May Blue: Mayhem at the Pet Show











Rosie-May Blue: Mayhem at the Pet Show

P. E. Woods

Pene Chadwick

Little Steps, 2021

125pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99


Rosie-May Blue and her family have just moved to the township of Waterfall Way. While Rosie-May is excited about that, she is also worried about starting a new school and making new friends, particularly because she is missing her old friends dearly.

When Rosie-May’s pony, Carrie, goes missing, Rosie-May fears for the worst. Her newfound friend Ellie is a comfort at her new school and together, they share a love of horse-riding. However, will their friendship survive the secret that Rosie-May uncovers? Will the secret spoil Rosie-May’s chance at winning a prize at the Waterfall Way Pet Show?

This is a new series for newly independent readers that will appeal to that huge cohort of girls who love horses and anything to do with them.  With characters and situations that will resonate with them, they will see themselves embedded in the story, always a positive for capturing attention and ensuring satisfied readers.  Series are important element in developing competent, confident readers as there is not the need to establish new characters and their relationships and circumstances each time a new book is started – the reader can pretty much continue from where the last one left off – and so to have a new one that will have such broad appeal is always welcome. 

Hattie and Olaf

Hattie and Olaf

Hattie and Olaf











Hattie and Olaf

Frida Nilsson

Stina Wirsen

Gecko Press, 2021

184pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99


Hattie, the  street-smart country girl who lives “just outside of nowhere, right next to no one at all” has wanted a horse more than anything. Her friend Ellen has three ponies. So when Hattie’s father finally comes home with a horse float, Hattie is ecstatic. But instead of a horse, out stomps Olaf—a donkey. Now Hattie not only has horse fever, she suddenly catches lying sickness as well.

This is the second adventure in this series about this young Scandinavian girl whose life is so similar to so many of her peers in Australia – they will relate to the isolation and the joy of being able to go to school because of the social contact it brings.  The banter between friends, the laughs, the pleasure in just being with others are all on offer in this funny story that is a great read-aloud or read-alone for independent readers. Even the longing for a horse is familiar and we all know the disappointment when a gift or experience turns out not to be what we imagined. 

Nilsson is an award-winning children’s writer from Sweden who has her finger on the pulse of what young readers relate to, no matter where in the world they live. 

To The Bridge

To The Bridge

To The Bridge









To The Bridge; the journey of Lennie and Ginger Mick

Corinne Fenton

Andrew McLean

Walker Books, 2020 

40pp., hbk., RRP $A26.99


Little Lennie Gwyther is fascinated by the construction of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, but unlikely to ever see it because it’s a long way from Leongatha in Victoria to Sydney in NSW.  And even less likely because the country is in the grip of the Great Depression and money is tight for train fares.  But when his father his hospitalised and Lenny takes up the responsibility of running the family farm, his parent decide to reward him for his hard work.  Lennie knows what he wants to do but because train fares are so expensive, he decides to saddle up his horse Ginger Mick and begin a journey that is the stuff of legends, 90 years later. So much so, that he is remembered in his home town with a statue to tell his story

Both Corinne Fenton and Andrew McLean have created a sensitive reconstruction of Lennie’s quest, bringing to life a time of great hardship for families that might be being echoed in homes again now.  But Lennie had a dream and he was able to make it come true, so perhaps this will offer some hope and comfort to a new generation facing an uncertain future. Lennie’s story is one worth sharing, even moreso now.  Why not set up an opportunity for students to investigate stories of kids who achieved their dreams like Lennie and maybe share the dreams of their own?


Running with the Horses

Running with the Horses

Running with the Horses










Running with the Horses

Alison Lester

Puffin, 2019

96pp., hbk., RRP $A16.99


Nina lives with her father above the palace stables at the Royal Academy of Dancing Horses. She loves watching the famous white stallions as they parade for the crowds, but her favourite horse is a mare called Zelda – an old cab horse Nina often pats on her way home from school.

When Nina’s world changes dramatically, she and her father have to flee from the city. Their journey over the mountains with Zelda and the stallions seems impossible, with danger at every turn. It will require all of Nina’s bravery, daring and faith in an extraordinary old horse.

This is a new edition of the picture book first released 10 years ago, now in a format that will attract newly independent readers to enjoy this story inspired by the rescue of the Lipizzaner stallions from the Spanish Riding School in Vienna during the Second World War, offering yet another story and insight into that conflict. although Lester insists it is a work of fiction.

With all the original illustrations – the main characters being in  black and white line drawings set against lavish colourful backgrounds – this is an intriguing read that justifies its re-release and promotion to a whole new generation.  

Dr Seuss’s Horse Museum

Dr Seuss's Horse Museum

Dr Seuss’s Horse Museum











Dr Seuss’s Horse Museum

Dr Seuss

Andrew Joyner

Puffin, 2019

75pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99


Throughout history, the horse has been the subject of paintings, sketches, sculptures  and other interpretations and each artist has viewed the same creature through a different lens.  Some have seen its outline, others its bulk; some have seen its lines, others its strength, and each has conveyed their perception in a different way. According to Ted Geisel (aka Dr Seuss), when an artist sees a horse, it is not viewed from a photographic point of view but what the horse means to them as a person, and that depends on their education, experience and the thousands of other influences that shape anyone’s view of the world, not just its horses. 

Twenty-one years after Geisel’s death, his wife found the manuscript that is the basis of this book illustrated by South Australian Andrew Joyner.  The actual timeline of the manuscript is unclear but it does reflect Geisel’s lifetime interest in art with rough pencil sketches and notes for the entire book, and this has now been interpreted by Joyner using his imagination and the actual art works that Geisel planned. Working through a range of art genres including Surrealism, Expressionism, Cubism and Abstraction, the young reader is not only taken on a journey through the interpretation of the horse but through art itself, offering an introduction to the various movements that have swept the world along making this a book for older readers as much as for younger. Accompanied by notes about the manuscript, Geisel’s own art and the featured works, the story is told in prose (as opposed to the usual rhyme) and speaks directly to the reader so it is entertaining as well as educational. 

It’s a great discussion starter as young artists think about what they see when they see a horse, as well as a springboard for getting out the tools and creating a personal interpretation. Something unique to add to the art curriculum.

A peek inside...

A peek inside…


Hello, Horse

Hello, Horse

Hello, Horse










Hello, Horse

Vivian French

Catherine Rayner

Walker Books, 2018

32pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99


It is very daunting meeting Catherine’s friend Shannon for the first time – because Shannon is a horse, a very big horse.  But slowly and gently Catherine manages the meeting showing the little boy that even though Shannon appears huge, she’s actually very gentle and with an apple and some grooming she is very friendly.  But when Catherine suggests that he ride Shannon, does he have the courage?

Part of the Nature Storybook series which includes Dingo, Koala, and Python this new addition looks at a more domesticated animal, one that is familiar to so many of our students but which can appear formidable up close because of its size.  But in the company of an experienced person and armed with the information in both the narrative and the sub-text, like the boy in the story little ones will have more confidence facing their concerns and discovering one of the gentle joys of life – plodding along on the back of a horse. The story is based on the illustrator and her own horse and the detailed watercolour illustrations not only echo her familiarity with these animals but also mirror the child’s anxiety so the reader understands it. 

Those readers who are already familiar with horses will enjoy sharing their knowledge and experiences when the book is shared, but it could also serve as a model for discussing the dos and don’ts of dealing with other domestic pets that may seem somewhat scary to start with.  It will also show that such concerns are common, not babyish, but they can be overcome by learning more.



Fabish: the horse that braved a bushfire

Fabish: the horse that braved a bushfire

Fabish: the horse that braved a bushfire










Fabish: the horse that braved a bushfire

Neridah McMullin

Andrew McLean

Allen & Unwin, 2016

32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99


Bushfires are part of the Australian landscape and psyche.  Even though we know they are a necessary part of the life cycle of the indigenous flora, we still brace ourselves each summer hoping that we won’t be affected by one that season.  When they do strike though, news reports are cluttered with statistics of acreage burnt, homes and buildings destroyed, and too often, lives lost.  Seldom do we hear of the wildlife that is caught up in them, those that can’t clamber into a car and head to safety, although occasionally there are tragic photos of fields of dead sheep or heart-warming ones of a firey giving a koala a drink from his water bottle.  

In this book, based on real events that emerged from the tragic Black Saturday fires in Victoria in 2009, we are taken to Tarnpirr Farm in Narbethong in north-east Victoria where trainer Alan Evett tried desperately to save the horses in his care. With expensive thoroughbreds to save, Evett had no choice but to set retired favourite Fabish and the seven young horses he led free from their paddock to fend for themselves while he cared for those he hustled into the stables.  All around the fire raged, Evett working tirelessly on spot fires and keeping the horse calm, while outside…

Thankfully, the fire dragon passed over the top of the building even though it ate everything else in its path and when morning came, Evett emerged to a scene of utter desolation.   Although he had saved the life of the racehorses. Evett feared he would never see his old mate Fabish again.  Climbing into an old ute that had somehow escaped too, he drove out through the paddocks to be met by more devastation and disaster.  Standing in the smoke-filled ruins of what had been his landscape and livelihood he mourned for Fabish and the yearlings until…

Together McMullin and McLean have brought to life not only the story of Fabish and all the other horses like him, but also the sights, sounds and the smells of a fire that once experienced can never be forgotten. Through carefully chosen vocabulary and evocative pictures the reader is drawn into the story hoping for a good outcome. The fire dragon is indiscriminate when it attacks and young children are often caught up in it just as grown-ups are, and their questions are often about the animals and how they survived.  In the aftermath when adults are busy doing the adult things they must, the children are often left wondering and so to have an uplifting story like this that not only demonstrates the determination and courage of those like Alan Evett who put their charges’ welfare before their own but also has a happy ending can go some way to alleviate their fear that everything is destroyed.

Sensitive in its approach, even those children who can remember the fires will relate to it although some discretion might be needed if there have been recent fires in your area because even though it is heart-warming we must be conscious of the memories it might evoke. For those who want to know more, Fabish was honoured a year later at the Healesville Picnic Races  and while Evett died not long after, his heroic story and that of Fabish are becoming more widely known as this book is shortlisted for the 2017 CBCA Eve Pownall Award.

A story for horse lovers as well as those exploring the impact of bushfires on the landscape.  

Fabish and his yearlings, picture courtesy Racing Victoria Ltd.

Fabish and his yearlings

Horace the Baker’s Horse

Horace the Baker's Horse

Horace the Baker’s Horse









Horace the Baker’s Horse

Jackie French

Peter Bray

National Museum of Australia, 2015

32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.95


As “mornings come with ash grey light, daytime nibbling away the night” Old William, the town baker, slides crusty loaves and fancy buns out of his ovens, steaming and fresh with an aroma that can never be forgotten.  Alongside Old William is his grandson Young Billy, helping out before school and learning his family’s trade in the traditional way, while, outside, Horace the baker’s horse waits patiently as Big Bill loads them into the baker’s cart to be delivered to the townsfolk. Life in this town, like many others around Australia of the time, is lived in a different way and to the beat of a different drum – the sound of horses’ hooves as they plodded around the town pulling distinctive carts and making their daily deliveries of bread and milk and ice and vegetables and meat, even rabbits!  Their route was as familiar and predictable as the routine of those who prepared the goods they delivered. The merchants knew their customers and their regular orders, and their horses were as much a part of the community as the children who loved them.  (Many spring roses owed their magnificence to the gifts left by the horses.)

But it is 1919 and the scourge of Spanish flu is sweeping the nation.  Even Old William is not immune and to Horace’s dismay he slumps to the ground unable to carry on.  Horace’s whinnies wake Big Bill and Young Billy and they find themselves doing the jobs that three used to do, and then Young Billy finds himself having to do it all.  At night he carries wood for the fire for the ovens, makes and mixes the dough, kneads and shapes it, cooks the loaves and buns and then piles them into the cart to deliver them.  Clearly too much for one little lad but he knows that if his family and friends are to recover they need the bread so they can have something to eat to regain their strength.

But what happens when Young Billy just cannot make bread all night and then deliver it all day?

This is a story dear to author Jackie French’s heart because it is one from her own family.  When the Spanish flu decimated populations (killing more people than World War 1) many of the deaths were because people just had no one to care for them.  Jackie’s great-grandmother made vats and vats of stew but while the protein and vitamins were essential, it was the carbohydrates in the bread that gave the energy to push on.  So, inspired by the stories that her grandmother told her and Bakery Cart No. 168, an exhibit at the National Museum of Australia, Jackie has crafted this wonderful story that is not only a story in and of itself but is also an integral part of the story of our country, of life in another time, of people whom we will never know again. Through Young Billy and Horace, neither of whom were unique, another thread has been woven into the fabric that is Australia.   

Combined with the exquisite illustrations of Peter Bray who has created a visual mural of life in post-war Australia and captured the essence of the people who lived it, this is the perfect example of how we can engage even the very youngest student in times that have gone before.  Even though their grandparents’ memories might not stretch so far back (unlike Jackie and me), nevertheless Grandma and Grandad may well remember stories told to them by their grandparents that can be shared again and the thread continued. Just as my child was amazed that my New Zealand childhood did not include television, so his children are amazed that his did not have the internet, and while it was confronting when they first asked me, “What was life like in the olden days, Grandma?” nevertheless it was an opportunity to tell them of a life spent roaming the shoreline as free as the seagulls above me – a life that came to life for them when I took them “home” a few weeks ago.

The inquiry questions for Foundation of the HASS strand of the Australian Curriculum are

What is my history and how do I know?

What stories do other people tell about the past?

How can stories of the past be told and shared?

Horace the Baker’s Horse is the perfect way to show how our history is told through story and to encourage our students to discover theirs, share and compare. Even at the launch in Canberra yesterday, audience members were sharing stories about the anticipation that the smell of a hot loaf of bread evoked and the scoldings endured because the centre had been eaten out before the loaf reached home!  If Jackie had been able to eavesdrop, she might have gleaned the material for another book!

A must-have.


The launch of Horace The Baker's Horse at the NMA in Canberra

The launch of Horace The Baker’s Horse at the NMA in Canberra (Click the picture for the Canberra Times article)


Trick-Stars series

Trick-Stars series











Triple Magic


Summer Spell


Second Chance


Saving Destiny


Chasing Dreams


Princess of the Sands


Karen Wood

Allen & Unwin, 2015

112pp., pbk., RRP $A9.99


Identical triplets Ruby, Lexie and Kit Trickett dream of leaving Windara Farm performing spectacular tricks on their beautiful gypsy cob horses. It’s a dream that’s a far cry from the vegetable-growing district around Kulnara where the girls live on their grandfather’s farm.  But their horses Tinker, Kismet and Featherfoot are workhorses and Grampy is not a wealthy man.  However things change when Ruby climbs into the loft to look for some old horse rugs to keep the horses clean and discovers a mysterious trunk.  Its lid is painted blue with gold stars and a silver moon and there is a hand-painted picture of a horse with two riders standing on its back – very much like her dream. And written on the lid is “Gallius and Levinia Trickett”, her grandparents.

Ruby doesn’t know it but this discovery unleashes family histories and secrets that become the impetus for this new series written for newly independent readers from about 7-10.  Mix dreams, sadness, and intrigue with horses, acrobatics, magic and characters that appeal and there is a formula for a series that will appeal to girls who love reading and horses. There are six in the collection (Chasing Dreams and Princess of the Sands are published this month) each building on the previous episode. I predict they will be warmly welcomed and eagerly read as young ladies put themselves in the saddle alongside Ruby, Lexie and Kit and share the dream with them.