Oh my God the Pony Camp trilogy. Just... my. God. Remember those books you read as a kid, the ones you loved but gave away for some reason, leaving them to ferment in your memories until you know you know that book, but can't exactly remember it? These are those books for me. I swear I must have had them damn near memorized at one point, but they hit the table at some garage sale or another. As I was putzing around the interwebs I unintentionally rediscovered them. Of course I HAD to order them. I mean, the nostalgia!!
Pony Camp vol. 1
Jessie Takes the Reins
by Susan Saunders
Will Jessie ever learn how to ride?
Jessie has always wanted to learn how to ride a horse. Now she's going to pony camp to meet the beautiful horse of her dreams. But Ranger isn't what Jessie expected.
He's spotted. He's stubborn. He's short.
And he doesn't like Jessie any more than she likes him!
Jessie wanted to be a great rider overnight. But learning to ride Ranger is really hard. What's worse, snobby Maxine from Jessie's third-grade class is a great rider who thinks she knows everything. Will Jessie need help from bossy Maxine to make her dream come true?
That's a long ass synopsis for a 90 page book, and it's not really all that accurate. Awesome.
So eight year old - I MEAN EIGHT AND A HALF since she mentions it twice on the first page (God it's first person narrative) - Jessie Johnson is a horse fanatic who's going to pony camp (no really?). She's also an idiot, but I'm getting ahead of myself. She's "read every horse book in the library, so I'm an expert on horses."
Jessie and her BFF Pam are off to this day camp where Jessie KNOWS you guys that she's going from beginner to expert in like five minutes, because she knows EVERYTHING about horses. Yep. She has wet dreams over the huge black thoroughbred that will be her magikal steed, named Thunder or something equally cliche.
Anyway, Jessie and Pam and put in a group with a fat boy named Peter, who is fat and messy and has a stupid haircut and eats candy all the time and ISN'T JESSIE'S NARRATIVE A GEM YOU GUYS? As well as Maxine who is neat and tidy and a good student and bad at sports and therefore a huge bitch and Jessie and Pam hate her OMG. Seriously, we get a lot of info about why Maxine is hate worthy. I mean, when Jessie hears Maxine has been taking riding lessons for a few months and is a natural, Jessie nearly shits her pants over how much that CAN'T be true.
So THEN Jessie meets the horse she's been assigned, an Appaloosa named Ranger. And apparently a spotted horse is a world ending situation, because while a black horse or a white horse would be an appropriate mount for little miss bitch, I mean bitch, I MEAN JESSIE - a black and white horse is OMG ugly kill it with fire.
But Ranger has the sense to be unimpressed with Jessie as well, and when Jessie utterly fails at EVERYTHING Jessie declares the HORSE has an attitude problem.
But if there isn't enough drama for you yet, we get introduced to our main antagonists, Kevin and Lisa Harris, and Lisa's BFF Sally. They're pretty much carbon copies of every horse book antagonist EVER. Except they really don't do anything in this book except trash talk. More on that later.
So the first time Jessie get's in the saddle she closes her eyes and lifts into a jump position and Ranger has the GALL to MOVE HIS HEAD A LITTLE BIT WHILE STANDING STILL. Jessie is ill prepared to handle such a wild movement and is pulled out of the saddle and onto his neck. Clearly this horse is out to get her. The first time they try a trot Jessie falls off and demands a new horse because Ranger is horse Satan or something.
So then there's some more smack talking from the Harris siblings that culminates in a swimming race which our "heroes" win. I fail to see the point.
And finally, Jessie happens to see an older rider taking Ranger over some jumps and gets all hot for the horse and decides to keep riding him instead of another horse, which Ranger is no doubt thrilled over. And we are treated to a saccharine ending in which Jessie comes to realize that she IS in fact a beginner. Gasp.
Things of note:
None of our four are typical horse book protagonists. Jessie and Pam are good students who love playing sports of all kinds. Maxine is very neat and tidy. Peter is... um... well, he doesn't really count.
The synopsis led me to believe that Maxine was the antagonist. And Pam and Jessie go on and on about what a bitch she is before she actually shows up in the book. Their proof of her bitchiness is: she's clean, bad at sports, and quiet. From the moment she appears she obviously has low self esteem, tries hard to be nice and helpful, and never comes across as condescending despite the fact that she OBVIOUSLY is a more knowledgeable and experienced rider.
Jessie is a bitch to her own BFF, getting mad at her for asking dumb questions and getting impatient with her for being nervous around horses. OUR HERO YOU ALL.
So obviously this thing doesn't coast on nostalgia, but then again as I read it I was reminded of the fact that I thought Jessie was a know it all bitch even when I myself was a young horse crazy child, so there you go.