by Michelle Holland
Pen Press, UK 09/04/2013
Age 7 to 12 80 pages
“Shelly has dreamt of having her own pony ever since she was a little girl. When her dream finally comes true, it is the beginning of an incredible friendship. With her mischievous mare Chelsea by her side, Shelly discovers that owning a pony is a real adventure. Chelsea behaves herself most f he time, even if she is too fond of rolling in the dust. Will she ever be ready for her first show?”
“Shelly was ten years old (sic) and she lived in a pretty village in Sussex with her mum and dad in a lovely bungalow surrounded by big beautiful trees. Her own bedroom at the back of the bungalow looked out onto the beautiful South Downs.”
Ten-year-old Shelly’s dream of owning her own pony was closer than she thought. To help Shelly get ready, her parents arranged for Shelly to help at a local riding school. There, Shelly would learn all she needed to know about ponies, including how to ride one. Three and one half after she had begun at the riding school, Shelly’s parents said “yes” to a pony.
Chelsea was everything Shelly wanted in a pony. Problem was, Chelsea had been purchased the day prior. Heart-broken, Shelly went straight to bed after dinner. It was two day before her fourteenth birthday—the day she was to have everything she ever wanted. Unknown to Shelly, the buyers backed out. Mr. Evans presented Chelsea to an ecstatic fourteen-year-old Shelly. Chelsea has some spunk and Shelly handled this well. The two were perfectly matched. They had a few adventures, like the day Shelly and her friend Hannah became heroes. On an afternoon ride, a dog barking wildly led the girls to an injured woman. The ambulance could drive to the woman due to the muddy field. Instead, Chelsea took the woman to the waiting ambulance. The biggest adventure was yet to come. Shelly and Chelsey entered six competitions at the August horse show. It would be their first show together and Shelly was anxious to win her first rosette.
Shelly Finds Her Dream Pony Chelsea will be interesting to any child that loves horses and wants to own their own pony someday. Peppered throughout the story are many terms distinct to horses, but not all of which is understandable in context. The story needs a good dose of editing, as there is more telling than showing. Dialogue is minimal with many excellent opportunities for an exchange missed. This makes for a dry story. I like that Shelly was required to learn about caring for a pony before she could get one and the process took three years. I imagine there is a lot to learn about Chelsea, even though she was not yet in the picture. Shelly shows a great deal of determination and fortitude.
The illustrations, made by the author, are an interesting mix of black and white and color. Chelsea is a light brown pony with a mischievous streak that does not always come out in the illustrations. I enjoyed those scenes. There is a sense of Chelsea having an instant connection with Shelly, even winking at the girl and smiling. Reading human emotions and actions onto the horse may or may not be accurate, but they made the story more interesting and light-hearted.
Shelly Finds Her Dream Pony Chelsea is a perfect story. By this, I mean everything was perfect. Shelly wanted her pony and her father agreed to build the stable. After weeks of looking, Shelly finds her dream pony, but it sold just the day prior. By Shelly’s birthday, she had received everything she needed or wanted for a pony, including pre-paid veterinary services, feed, hay, and insurance, just not a pony.
Soon, a truck with a trailer pulled in. From the back of the trailer walks out Chelsea, Shelly’s dream pony. Everything works out perfectly without Shelly needing to do much of anything. Just too perfect. Now that the pony Chelsea had arrived, the story would pick up. I really wish I could write that, but more “perfect” continued, with the narrator telling about it all.
I really wanted to be enamored with Shelly Finds Her Dream Pony Chelsea. I love animal tales. A tale with a first pony, I thought, could have exciting firsts and disastrous moments, plus a bit of humor, making for a roller coaster ride I would enjoy and remember for a long time to come. The final challenge, the one all the other challenges build toward, is the first horse show. I thought the pony would start out poor, make mistakes, frustrate the rider, worry the mother, and maybe embarrass the coach. Not a race won and one or two last places. It is the first show for the pony. Then the final contest, the big hurdling race. Chelsea had troubling learning to jump. She enjoys jumping but tends to act bit crazy and jump higher than needed. The pony is fearless. I hoped something would click, maybe after a narrow escape, and the pony and rider miraculously win their first rosette.
What a story . . . it might have been, but instead the story continues being perfect with little, if any, conflict. Shelly had nothing to overcome, work through, or fret about. Maybe that is the way the story seems by the narrator’s telling. Based on a true story—something I did not know while reading—there must have been more drama and dialogue, conflict and adversity. Chelsea is a rescued horse. She had to recover physically and emotionally. That is the story that I would have loved to read. It is the story that would have me invested emotionally, something all good stories cause.
Writing an emotional story, one the author experienced, must be difficult to write. When we tell others what happened, we do just that—tell. This is what the narrator did, rather than letting the story unfold as the reader watched and listened.
Shelly Finds Her Dream Pony Chelsea is ready for enhancements, for dialogue. Then it will be ready to wow the reader. I truly hope the author continues investing in Chelsea’s story with edits and re –writes; letting the characters show the story, and the narrator tell less. Ms. Holland has potential to wow the reader with her skills—once cultivated. I would love to read the second edition of Shelly Finds Her Dream Pony Chelsea. I am confident Ms. Holland can take the reader on an emotional rollercoaster ride they won’t soon forget.
Learn more about Shelly Finds Her Dream Pony Chelsea HERE.
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SHELLY FINDS HER DREAM PONY CHELSEA. Text and illustrations copyright © 2013 by Michelle Holland. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Pen Press, Brighton,UK.