Book Review: The Red Pony by John Steinbeck

Book Review: The Red Pony by John Steinbeck

Title: The Red Pony
Author: John Steinbeck
Publisher: Puffin
Paperback: 95 pages
Source: Chicago Public Library OverDrive
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

Raised on a ranch in northern California, Jody is well-schooled in the hard work and demands of a rancher’s life. He is used to the way of horses, too; but nothing has prepared him for the special connection he will forge with Gabilan, a hot-tempered pony his father gives him. With Billy Buck, the hired hand, Jody tends and trains his horse, restlessly anticipating the moment he will sit high upon Gabilan’s saddle. But when Gabilan falls ill, Jody discovers there are still lessons he must learn about the ways of nature and, particularly, the ways of man.

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Overall Rating: 3 out of 5

This is an okay short story cycle. It follows Jody, a boy living in northern California on a ranch and goes through various scenarios where he starts growing up and learns that adults are not infallible while also learning how to cope with grief and sorrow. I think I should have looked into what this book was actually about, however, because the titular red pony is only in it for the first chapter and the rest are completely separate stories that focus on Jody. So, my feelings towards this book may well have been disappointed expectations, as I was expecting some sort of animal book and got a coming of age short story cycle that was only 25% about a red pony.

The Red Pony is well written overall, though a bit on the boring side. It is proper Steinbeck in that it does a good job in describing the beauty of the region, nature, and the way of life during that time. Each short story is vaguely related to the other, as it follows the same characters, but they all focus on different specific themes and ideas. It might seem like this is a great book for kids, but it’s still Steinbeck and is filled with hard-to-handle, unhappy concepts, so while the writing style is easy to get through, the stories generally have a sad feel to them — I wouldn’t recommend this for anyone younger than middle grade.

Like I said, it’s fine. It’s not an amazing story collection, but it’s not terrible. It’s interesting to get a glimpse of life on a ranch in northern California and look at it through the eyes of a boy. Steinbeck fans would enjoy this, but I wouldn’t list it as a must-read.

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