Pamela, a lonely little girl, lives in an isolated house with her two aunts (one nice, one distant and strict). Her absentee father visits occasionally, and her mom is dead. But her life gets a lot more fun when she gets a magic amulet that enables her to meet a mysterious boy her own age and his herd of pastel ponies.

Obviously, the best part of this book is the pastel ponies. Who wouldn't want a herd of pink, blue, sunset, and sunrise-colored ponies named after clouds? I wish I'd read this book when I was nine, because I would have absolutely reveled in the pretty, pretty ponies. Probably a better title would have been The Rainbow Ponies.

Ponyboy is annoying - the book was written when it was common to portray boys being sexist as cute and funny, and that has not aged well. But like I said: pretty, pretty pink ponies! If you think you'd like that, you will certainly enjoy this book.

Season of Ponies
In this children's book by the author of The Egypt Game, precocious writer Libby was home-schooled by her eccentric, intellectual relatives in their rambling house, until her mostly-absentee mother decided Libby needed to be socialized and enrolled her in school. Libby was bullied and miserable, and matters seemed to get worse when she got stuck in a writer’s workshop with four other kids: Barbie doll Wendy, punk Tierney, weirdo Alex, and bully GG.

But as these stories always go, there’s more to people than the stereotypes and personas that meet the eye, and people who are forced to interact sometimes become friends. This is an excellent version of this particular story, very predictable in plotting but charming in execution.

The kids are likable, their emotions are well-delineated, and the stories they write, and the interactions in their critique group, are the best part of the book: Tierney’s exasperation at her trope-heavy genre stories constantly being mistaken for parodies, Wendy’s tendency to have her stories all turn into Sweet Valley High, even when they’re set on a desert island, and GG’s endless iterations of bloody slaughter on an island, on a ship, in spaaaaace!

Out of print, but many cheap copies are available on Amazon.

Libby on Wednesday
A children’s fantasy.

Xandra, a misfit in a large family she dislikes, rescues a wounded bird. It vanishes, leaving behind a magic feather. Belinda, a misfit at school, instantly knows what the feather is and, along with her mysterious grandfather, coaches Xandra on its use. The feather enables Xandra to perceive not-quite-visible creatures, some the friendly shadows of animals she rescued, some hostile monsters. It was extremely obvious to me that the creatures are projections of her inner state, and because she sort of randomly hates everything, some of them hate and bite her.

This story of self-discovery and of inner feelings projected outward was better in concept than execution. It’s told that Xandra feels left out because her siblings are high achievers and she isn’t, but she seems to genuinely loathe her entire family in a way that goes way beyond feeling inferior, so her reconciliation with them at the end doesn’t ring true. Belinda’s presence is way too convenient, and she seems to have no identity or purpose that isn’t connected to helping Xandra. And the world of the unseen is not all that compelling.

I haven’t re-read it recently, but my recollection is that Snyder’s own The Witches of Worm was a much deeper, creepier, and more compelling take on similar themes.

The Unseen

The Witches of Worm
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