October 09, 2011

The Fire Pony by Rodman Philbrick

I think this is one of those books that explores the tougher things in life for a child. Surely it isn't a heartwarming book and since it is geared at children, its surprising the amount of depth that it covers.

After living in foster care for awhile, Roy is sprung out of the place by his half brother Joe. Together they travel from place to place without ever staying long because of Joe's penchant for getting into trouble. But Roy doesn't mind, at least he's wanted by someone. They find themselves at the Bar None where for once they are accepted whole heartedly. Roy begins to think that maybe they'll be able to stay in one place for awhile, but that familiar fire sometimes sparks back into Joe's eyes and Roy can't get his hopes up too much. He knows that Joe is itching to do something, but he just isn't sure what it is yet. Meanwhile, Roy will just continue to love his horse and watch as his brother works his magic with the horses at Bar None Ranch.

Although this book is mostly about Roy, I think it is Joe who takes the center stage. As an adult I would probably classify Joe as being bipolar and a bit obsessive. As a child I just always thought he was one of those bad kids you read about that had a good heart but just couldn't stay out of trouble. He does certainly seem to have some demons chasing him. Roy is a standard kid, full of hopes and dreams yet wary of the future because of his brother. I liked the other characters in the story as well as they expressed the warmth and acceptance that was needed in such a dark novel.

There are a lot of hard themes in this book. Most of them are expressed through Joe's personality but there's also mention of death, drinking, and other hard topics. There's a lot going on in here for a kid to read but it all seems truthful and shows that just because someone does bad things, it doesn't make them a bad person at heart. Since the book is written from Roy's view it has a certain sound to it that is part child and part casual language. It is written like it would be spoken so there is a lot of slang and bad grammar, but that just makes it more real. And its something a kid could definitely relate to.

This book has been on my shelf for a long time and I still pull it out to read it every now and again. It explores the tough part of life, but still manages to give hope as well.

The Fire Pony
Copyright 1996
175 pages

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