Monday, June 15, 2009

Winona's Pony Cart by Maud Hart Lovelace

107 pages
copyright 1953
First Harper Trophy edition, 2000
Harper Collins Publishers, Inc.
New York, NY

In addition to the ten books that make up the Betsy-Tacy series, Maud Hart Lovelace also wrote three more books about life in Deep Valley during the turn of the last century. The three books include Carney's House Party (c)1949), Emily of Deep Valley (c)1950) and Winona's Pony Cart (c)1953). Although I have long been a fan of the Betsy-Tacy series until last week I had never read any of the Deep Valley books.

And so, having just recently finished Betsy and Tacy Go Downtown, I thought it as good a time as any to pick up and read Winona's Pony Cart. (Especially since the next book I'm to read in the Besty-Tacy series takes the girls from their childhood and into the world of high school, football games, and house parties.)

Winona's Pony Cart is set some time between Betsy, Tacy and Tib (when the girls are 7 going on 8) and Betsy and Tacy Go Over the Big Hill (when the girls are 8 going on 9). Readers of the Betsy-Tacy series will most likely remember Winona Root from her appearance in Betsy and Tacy Go Downtown, when she becomes friends with the threesome and invites them along to view a matinee at the Deep Valley Opera House.

In this book the story centers on Winona Root and her well-to-do family. It is autumn in Deep Valley; the trees are bursting forth in beautiful color and Winona is very much looking forward to her eighth birthday. At first she is hoping for a miniature printing press, like what is used at the Deep Valley Sun newspaper where her father works. But then she decides she wants a life-sized baby doll, which sounds perfect.... Until she realizes what she really wants above all is her very own pony! But even though her father says no to the pony Winona is still hopeful. In fact, she's so hopeful that she starts to believe that she IS getting a pony and even tells her classmates, including Betsy, Tacy, and Tib about the gift; never stopping to think what might happen if she is wrong. To add to this mess, Winona decides to extend party invitations to her classmates and acquaintances even though her mother has set a limit of fifteen, all of whom have already been invited. As the party day approaches Winona has two things on her mind... What will she name her pony? And what will her mother say when all the extra children show up? What happens next makes for quite a story. The end result is another sweet story by Mrs. Lovelace that is both whimsical and comical.

But as much as I enjoyed Winona's Pony Cart I just didn't like it quite as well as the Besty-Tacy books. I think a big part of it has to do with the fact that Winona Root is a spoiled child. While she is a nice child, she has some annoying habits, including bragging to her friends and getting carried away with her expectations. Still the story turns out all-right and lessons are learned. Overall I found it to be a clean and entertaining story that works great as a read aloud to young children, or a read-alone for young readers.

On a scale of 1-5, 1 being horrible and 5 being excellent I would rate Winona's Pony Cart a 4. It's a great story by Mrs. Lovelace, but just not quite as good as her other works. (Maybe I'm just prejudiced to the Besty-Tacy books?) One bonus is the illustrations by Vera Neville, they are simply beautiful. In closing, fans of the Besty-Tacy books who are looking for some more Deep Valley stories shouldn't miss the Deep Valley books.

Note: I don't remember where I got my copy, it was bought some years ago and is the only Deep Valley book that I own. Unfortunately all the Deep Valley books are currently out of print, but used copies can be found on a varying scale of prices for those interested.

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