cover image Emma and Freckles

Emma and Freckles

Valerie Beales. Simon & Schuster, $13 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-671-74686-5

This first novel trots out a conventional horse story: girl meets pony, girl loses pony, girl gets pony back. Emma, 11, bored with the ponies at her riding school, talks her parents into buying her one of her own. She falls instantly in love with Freckles and insists that she can control his headstrong ways. Once home with him, though, she has her hands full: mounted, he gallops off; unsaddled, he destroys her father's garden. In various plot twists, Freckles winds up at abusive Mr. Wetherby's riding school, then back at Emma's, where she finally gets to keep him--after acknowledging her willful and irresponsible behavior. Only the most horse-crazy readers will overlook the glaring deficiencies here--notably, the lackluster characterization. Emma comes off as a whining brat; her father is a dictator, and her mother exists only as a buffer between them; Mr. Wetherby is a cartoon villain. The setting, too, is problematic: obviously British--filled with unfamiliar terms (``roadside verge'') and references to English country life--a half-baked attempt to Americanize it by referring to U.S. currency and holidays fails. Ages 10-14. (June)