R J Palacio (Puffin (Penguin))


Review by Clementine
This novel, set during the American Civil War, follows a young boy Silas’ journey. As a reader, I was really drawn into the journey, due to the extensive detail and research the author had clearly put in. It almost encourages us to have courage just like Silas did, in his case, fuelled by the love for his father. Also, Silas’ journey reflects upon his past troubles, perhaps the reason he had such vivid memories, and that his father’s disappearance reminds him of his mother’s absence throughout his life. It seems to me a book that would suit younger audiences rather than adults, as they are more likely to engage with the character of Silas and feel as if they are on the journey together.  

Review by Tiffany
When I first started this book, I was amazed by its language; it’s very thoughtfully written with a beautiful flow.

I learnt that in the time this book was set, the mid 1800s, times were tough and there was a lot of lawlessness. The plot is serious, it showed a strong connection between a boy and his father based in historical America so I learnt a lot about the past including what Daguerreotypes are (the first sellable photographic process in the history of photography. Named after the inventor, Louis Jacques Mandé Daguerre, each daguerreotype is a unique image on a silvered copper plate.)

Although, there is a character called Mittenwool; I’m not completely sure what Mittenwool is, the book describes him as a ghost. He accompanies the main character Silas on his adventure. Because of this, I am not sure if this story is a fantasy novel or historical fiction because I don’t believe in ghosts personally.

As the book progressed, I became more and more intrigued.

When the author was describing the horse, ‘Pony’ she explained it has a pure white face with blue eyes. This gave me the idea that possibly the white face has something to do with fate. A face like a skull? (As seen on cover) Gleaming blue eyes, like hope? I enjoyed the way the characters are described in this book more than the characters themselves because none of them stood out to me.

On the whole, I think this book is for readers who like adventure, hope, suspense and, well, horses. I wouldn't read it again because it did drag on towards the end although I would recommend it to people who have a good sense in books.

Review by Ellie
The character that I found is the most interesting is Mittenwool as he is mysterious and appears throughout the book but you won't know much of him until the end. Although Mittenwool is my favourite character, I think all the characters were well-written with all the goals and their ambition clear. What I learnt from the past from the book was how the sheriffs would do their jobs in the mid 18th century in America.

I think the plot is exciting as it already has some tough decisions near the start of the book. this stands out from most books as it includes the supernatural and has many unexpected plot twists. I would recommend this book to others as the ending was magnificent and emotional. The book inspired me to have another viewpoint of what it would be like if ghost were around and what intentions they could have, depending on the type of death.

Review by RJ
Pony is a story that was set and starts a year before the American Civil War in 1860. A story that starts [with] (and is about) a father whose passion is to learn about photographic sciences and create stunning photos and his son who will have to search deep into the Wild West to find him.                                              

This is an amazing story about Silas Bird, the son of Martin Bird, the one who he calls Pa, and his imaginary friend Mittenwool. The story truly begins when 3 riders come to the Bird Family's settlement and want to take Pa and his photography skills to them for their boss: Ollerenshaw. Not only that, but they also kept calling his Pa another name as well... Mac Boat. Soon afterwards, a hint of foreshadowing would tell us what Silas' family has been roped into. The Counterfeiting Ring. 

I like how the story is set up in only a matter of a single chapter and as soon as we get to the 2nd Chapter, the real story begins after. We get straight to the point, with a little flash forward included in the prologue as well and I enjoy how R.J Palacio does that, who is also the creator of Wonder; another book I had a blast reading. 

Also, the time the story was set in was a time in history that I wasn't very knowledgeable in, so it was very refreshing to read a completely new time in history I've never heard of, and it was a delightful experience. 

Thanks to this book, I learnt a new word that I've never heard of as well. Counterfeiting ring is the service of printing fake and illegal money, which would also make sense as to why those criminals wanted Pa. They needed him for them to create copies, which is another thing I enjoyed about this. Everything basically tied in together to make the story. 

An example is Pa having a passion for photography and the criminals needing his abilities to create the counterfeits. 

On top of some new words, I have gained some new knowledge due to the book as well. An example of this would be that fake money making has been going around for centuries, which I never knew with my prior knowledge.

Finally, is the plot. The plot presents itself in a very serious tone I’d say. Silas’ dad has just been taken away and he would go on to make a life-or-death decision. He embarks on a not-so-fantasy adventure but on a gruelling one with twists and turns at every moment. Silas could’ve died at some moments and that was because he went on a journey even though his father said he’d come back anyway. On one hand, you could say Silas was being dumb there but playing as devil’s advocate, there was a possibility he might not even come home.  He meets different people with contracting personalities and explore new lands that he once swore himself he’d never go to. This adventure was an eye-opener to Silas as he learns about the real world. As fate would have it, he didn’t get the happy ending he deserved going on this adventure… All he could do was go forwards and live on. For Pa. 

In summary, Pony was a brilliant book to read and I’d recommend it to people in Year 7, 8 and 9. But, this book can work pretty much for all ages apart from toddlers and below. A must read if you’re interested in American History (more notably the Wild West/American Frontier Era). 

Review by Kanha
‘PONY’ by R.J. Palacio is a harrowing novel, great for all ages. The story follows a twelve-year-old boy named Silas and his adventure.

The book begins with a bang: Silas’ father getting kidnapped by men from a counterfeiting ring. The men promise that they will return Silas’ father after seven days, but Silas is suspicious. Silas has a friend named ‘Mittenwool’ who is a spirit. Mittenwool is a voice of reason in Silas’ life and gives him sensible advice throughout the story. A few days after his father was taken, Silas is visited by a pony, which he recognises from the night of his father’s disappearance. Despite Mittenwool’s protests, Silas leaves on the pony to find his father. The pony seems to know where his father is and leads the way. Silas goes into the woods, but does not know how to survive in nature. He is found by an older man: “Farmer Marshall” who, despite his irritating nature, cares for Silas. After some begging from the protagonist, the Marshall allows Silas to travel with him. They travel until they find a ravine where the story climaxes...

Intertwined with Silas’ adventures are flashbacks of his father and conversations with other characters such as Mittenwool. One of my favourite aspects of the novel was the friendship between Silas and Mittenwool. Their mundane conversations were a welcomed break from the action and made the explosive moments stand out.

My favourite moment was a flashback where Silas and his father wanted to take a photograph of the moon for a competition. They spent four months setting up the photography technology and waiting for the Moon to be closest to the Earth. Even after all that work, it all depended on the weather and light, but they got the perfect photograph. The photograph was on a glass plate, and while Silas was holding it, the photograph slipped from his hands and shattered. Instead of responding with anger, his father responds with love and compassion and tells Silas that everything will be alright. This is a great moment because it reminds us of why he is so set on finding his father. 

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