cover image The Princess and the Pony

The Princess and the Pony

Kate Beaton. Scholastic/Levine, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-545-63708-4

Beaton, whose “Hark, a Vagrant!” webcomic has won her a devoted audience, makes her picture-book debut with a story starring Pinecone, a Viking princess, and the dumpy, walleyed pony sometimes seen in her comics. The pony functions as a (very) blank canvas onto which other characters project their expectations; here, it’s what Pinecone’s parents give her when she asks for a “real warrior’s horse” for her birthday. She’s appalled, “but you can’t say no to a birthday present, so she took the little pony to her room, where it ate things it shouldn’t have, and farted too much.” When it’s time for the great battle, Princess Pinecone fears the pony will humiliate her. Instead, it melts the heart of Otto the Awful, the meanest warrior of all. “Awww, what a cute little pony!” he murmurs. Beaton champions a bouquet of affirming themes: strong girls, acceptance of difference, and battling with nothing more violent than dodgeballs, spitballs, and other related objects. It’s a smart, brisk story that tosses aside conventional ideas of what princesses (and ponies) are “supposed” to be. Ages 4–8. Agent: Seth Fishman, Gernert Company. (June)