May Contain Spoilers
Early Chapter Book Ages 7-8 Pidgy’s Surprise is the story of Cindy Sawyer and her plucky little Shetland pony named Pidgy. Cindy is always dreaming of the beautiful horse she hopes to own. Ponies are nice, but a horse would be wonderful. Cindy’s dream soon becomes an obsession and her parents realize that she is becoming a very unhappy girl. After a summer full of fun and riding, a morning comes when Pidgy goes missing. Not until she looks into the empty stall does Cindy realize how much she really loves her pony. Over 80 detailed drawings by famed equine author/illustrator Jeanne Mellin.
If you follow the blog at all, you know how much I love horses. When I saw this book by Jeanne Mellin, I was dying to read it. Originally published in 1955, Willow Bend Publishing worked with the author to update the text to make it more relatable to modern readers, without changing the flavor of the original story. I thought they did a wonderful job; the story flows smoothly, and the dialog doesn’t feel stiff or unnatural. Cindy’s dream to own a horse instead of her stubby little pony will resonate with young, horse-crazy girls. It certainly resonated for me!
Cindy Sawyer dreams constantly of owning a sleek, graceful, and bold horse. What she has instead is Pidgy, a chubby Shetland Pony. Unremarkable in any way, Cindy feels that she’s outgrown her childhood companion, and now all she can think about is getting a horse. She wants to compete at the summer horse show, and, besides, all of her friends have horses now! It’s unfair that she’s the only one who still has a pony.
After initially disliking Cindy because she seemed a bit spoiled to me, I gradually warmed up to her. When I was her age, I would have done anything to have a pony or a horse. I would have done anything to even be able to take riding lessons. My parents did not understand the depth of my equine obsession, but it never went away. When I moved out of the city, I continually talked about taking riding lesson. The DH, finally fed up with hearing me talk about it but never do anything about it, told me I wasn’t getting any younger and if I was serious about learning to ride, I needed to do something now, or I needed to stop talking about horses. Several years later, I am the proud owner of not one, but two, horses, and I’m sure he wishes he hadn’t said anything to me at all! I will remain eternally grateful!
So, getting back to young Cindy, she had a perfectly pleasant pony she could hack around on. Pidgy is about as bomb-proof as they come, and Cindy often jaunted about town bareback. For her to wish and wish and wish for a horse seemed a little greedy to me. But then I began to sympathize with her and her dream to own a horse. All of her friends had gorgeous, flashy mounts that were spirited and fun to ride. Comparing the shaggy little Pidgy to these beautiful horses was a little bit like comparing a Smart car to a Ferrari. Being surrounded by all of that horsey hotness made Cindy miserable. They were everything that Pidgy was not.
I liked the portrayal of Cindy’s parents. They are sympathetic to her unhappiness, but they also can’t see anything wrong with Pidgy. Her mother actively attempts to find a solution for her daughter’s misery, and after allowing her to show Pidgy in a local horse show, they allow the pony to prove to Cindy that they still have many adventures to enjoy together.
The descriptions of the horse show are spot-on, as is Pidgy’s stubborn, mischievous personality. I don’t know much about Shetlands, but when Hackney ponies get a little big for their tiny britches, we just laugh and say, “That’s a pony for you!” They are smart and they thrive on attention. They are also gifted at getting into trouble. Pidgy behaved much the same, and proved that she had a mind of her own, and that she wasn’t afraid to use it. When they had a battle of wills, it was debatable whether Cindy won, or whether Pidgy allowed her to think she had.
My favorite part of the book are the beautiful illustrations. Each drawing is detailed, and the horses are lovingly rendered. They add so much personality to the story, and I enjoyed all of them. Though it would be prohibitively expensive, I would have loved to see some of these in color. Jane Mellin knows horses, and her illustrations are a joy to behold. The book would be greatly diminished without them.
If you have a horse crazy girl in the house, I can’t recommend this book enough. Pidgy’s Surprise would also make a wonderful addition to a classroom library.
NOTE: As mentioned in the forward, Pidgy’s Surprise was written before wearing helmets was common. After recently falling off one of my horses when I was trying to dismount, I can’t stress strongly enough how important it is to strap on an approved helmet before getting on a horse.
Recommended for ages 7 – 8, but I think this will appeal even to older girls, as well as some adults, due to the fantastic interior illustrations.
Review copy provided by publisher
Just for Fun:
This is a picture of Bentley, a Hackney pony, standing next to a Freisian. If you are wondering how Cindy felt riding her pony next to her friends with their horses, this picture should give you a good idea!