Title: Colt on Christmas EveColt on Christmas Eve
Author: Ben M. Baglio
Illustrator: Ann Baum
Pages: 142
Reading Level: 9-12
Star Rating: ★★★

Animal Ark.

The Story.

Mandy loves Christmas. And even though she’s never met Great-Aunt Pip, she’s certain that going to stay at her house in New Forest is a glorious idea. Partly because it will be great to spend time with family, and partly because of the wild ponies that live in the forest.

When Mandy befriends Lizzie, the local agister’s daughter, she is whirled away in the world of caring for and riding the ponies. But when Lizzie’s favorite horse, Willow, is hit by a passing vehicle, and Willow’s colt, Jingle, runs off in a wild frenzy through the forest, Mandy learns that taking care of the ponies isn’t just fun and games. Sometimes it’s the difference between life and death for these animals.

Can Mandy and Lizzie find Jingle before he, too, is injured?

Discussion.

Colt on Christmas Eve actually includes some pretty interesting English history – history which is associated with New Forest. Through her great aunt, Mandy learns about agisters, the local officials whose job it was to patrol the forests and take care of the animals there, and other traditions.

When Mandy and Lizzie meet, we are unsure what direction their relationship is going to take. They are both infatuated with the ponies, but Lizzie seems stand offish. Will they unite over their common interests, or will jealousy flame up?

As it turns out, they become best buds. And rightly so – Lizzie is definitely a kindred spirit. After a few boys inadvertently scare a few ponies with their motorbikes, Lizzie tells them off (with Mandy approvingly watching on).

When Mandy first sees her great aunts house, she thinks that it looks like a perfect witch’s cottage. Roaming through the forest reminds her of Hansel and Gretel’s adventures. Later, she thinks that maybe her aunt’s stuffed owl comes to life at night and haunts the forest.

Mandy tells Jingle that his dead mother “will be watching over you.” [pg. 133]

The Hopes celebrate Christmas and “receive gifts from Santa Claus”.

‘Heck’ is used once.

Conclusion. Colt on Christmas Eve is more interesting than the typical Animal Ark installment due to its historic themes.

Review © 2014 Laura Verret

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