Review: Pony Racer by Lucy Johnson
PUBLISHED: 11:00 12 June 2015
Annette Shaw reviews Pony Racer by Lucy Johnson
Published by Forelock Books Ltd. Hardback £9.99
Web site: forelock-books.co.uk
Oh dear. This one needs to come with free tissues and a mascara warning for mummy. Lucy John’s novel about Tom, recently placed in foster care with the Heaven family, is written so sensitively, it’s tears by page five. And highly recommended.
“Why have you come back?” Tom sobbed, turning away from the pony. Leo pushed him again. Tom couldn’t resists and then put his cheek against the warm neck and closed his eyes. “Everyone hates me, except you,” he said quietly.
Central to the plot is the sixth sense for love that animals have in spades, matched by the patience and wisdom of the foster parents slowly giving Tom the building blocks for self-belief and self-esteem. Think Black Beauty meets Good Night Mister Tom.
The book centres on nine-year-old Tom who strikes up a bond with a pony called Leo when he goes to live with the Heaven family. Troubled after a difficult start in life, it is Tom’s affection for Leo, and the unconditional love and support from the Heavens that gives him hope and confidence. He discovers he is fearless, determined, and surrounded by people who recognise his skills as a horseman. Tom holds on to a dream that one day he’all be good enough to ride Leo in a pony race and take the first step towards becoming a jockey.
Pony Racer. is Lucy’s first novel. Spurred on by a love of horse racing and writing, She started out as a section editor at the Western Morning News before branching out into PR. From her home in Modbury, South Devon, Lucy says a search for a children’s novel centred on racing for her eight-year-old son Toby proved fruitless so she decided to write her own book. “ I scribbled down a few chapters as the idea about a central character called Tom and his bond with a pony called Leo started to evolve.”
“Books were always an escape, a place to dream and imagine. When I wasn’t messing about with my own pony, disappearing for hours on end on up on the moors or in the woods with my gang of pony-owning friends, I’d be reading, the words of the writer fuelling my imagination even further. “ I grew up with shelves groaning under the weight of books and would read every night into the small hours, dreaming of galloping along beaches, jumping five bar gates, and winning rosettes,” says Lucy. “The book portrays the passion for riding and the sense of freedom that can only come from riding at speed.”
Lucy also hopes that children of all ages who are tempted to read the book might at least try a day at the races. “ Horseracing and those involved in it are part of an incredible all-encompassing sport that appeals across the generations,” she says . “It’s such a great industry to become involved in with whether as a hobby or a career. Racecourse family days as well as BHEST’s brilliant Racing To School initiative are both terrific ways to introduce children.”