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Wild and Free: Review of The Painted Ponies by Alison Lester

November 4, 2019

‘Matilda loved staying at Grandma Lucky’s house. There was a pony called Luna, Ginger Cat, Big Dog and the painted ponies.’

Beloved children’s author and Australia’s first Children’s Book Laureate, Alison Lester has written a moving new story about giving freedom to those you love and putting others needs before your own.

When Matilda visits her grandmother’s house, she not only gets to play with all the animals that live there but also plays with a set of painted ponies that live inside a carved wagon. A gold palomino, chestnut, bay and dapple grey. There is also one with a star on its nose. One day Matilda asks Grandma Lucky about this special marking.

And so, begins the tale of Grandma Lucky and her family who travelled the countryside performing in far flung places with a troupe of clever animal friends. Extraordinary animals such as dancing goats, clairvoyant hens and the biggest horse in the world.

Until one summer they spot six wild ponies playing – a gold palomino, a chestnut, a bay, a pinto, a brown and a dappled grey. Mother and Lucky want to catch the horses and add them to their show but dad says let them be, as they are wild.

When they travel back through that way again it’s winter and the horses welcome the warmth and food that joining the show brings but can wild horses be happy if they’re not free?

As with all Alison Lester books the illustrations are stunning and contribute greatly to the richness of the story. From the bold images of Grandma Lucky as a young girl with a lasso standing on the back of her horse to the sprightly, rounded dogs and Noni the Pony style horses, each page is a visual treat. The yellows and greens of the Australian landscape coupled with the vibrant pinks and oranges of the travelling show make the pages sing.

Lucky is a fantastic character; adventurous, brave and independent. She’s not afraid to make important decisions by herself and she has a big heart.

Lester spent her childhood on a farm and around horses and still lives on the land surrounded by animals and on the road visiting remote schools, and you can see that connection to animals and the land reflected in The Painted Ponies.

This very special picture book will appeal to many young readers, especially those who have enjoyed Noni the Pony and My Farm. It’s also the perfect book for grandparents to share with grandchildren – who always have endless questions about what the adults in their lives did when they were children.

Alison Lester was also voted into our Top 50 Kids’ Books for 2019. Take a look at the full list here and the Top 25 for Younger Readers here.

Purchase a copy of The Painted Ponies | Read more from Alison Lester | Take a look inside

Alison Lester grew up on a farm by the sea, and first rode a horse as a baby in her father’s arms. Her picture books mix imaginary worlds with everyday life, encouraging children to believe in themselves and celebrate the differences that make them special. Alison is involved in many community art projects and spends part of every year travelling to remote Indigenous communities, using her books to help children and adults write and draw about their own lives.

In 2012, Alison became Australia’s first Children’s Book Laureate, a position she shared with Boori Monty Pryor. In 2016, she was awarded the Dromkeen Medal for her outstanding achievement in the creation of Australian children’s and young adult literature, and in 2018 she became the first children’s book creator to win the Melbourne Prize for Literature, for her outstanding contribution to Australian literature and cultural and intellectual life. In 2019, Alison was awarded an Australia Post Legends Award and featured on a stamp, as well as being the recipient of a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in the 2019 Australia Day Honours List.



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