Cover image for The quicksand pony
The quicksand pony
Lester, Alison.
Personal Author:
First Houghton Mifflin edition.
Publication Information:
Boston : Houghton Mifflin, 1998.

Physical Description:
136 pages : map ; 22 cm
After her pony Bella, trapped in quicksand, is rescued by a mysterious unseen person, ten-year-old Biddy follows the trail into the Australian bush and discovers the solution to a disappearance that happened years ago.
General Note:
"Walter Lorraine books."
Reading Level:
720 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR MG 5.1 4.0 18590.

Reading Counts RC 3-5 5.7 8 Quiz: 22692 Guided reading level: NR.
Format :


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Material Type
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Item Holds
X Juvenile Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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'Biddy, I'm sorry, we're going to have to leave her.' 'What?' Biddy struggles out of the quicksand. 'You can't leave her! The tide's coming in. She'll drown!' But the pony is trapped and Biddy is forced to go on without her. The next day the only signs of Bella area hoof prints in the sand...with small footprints and the paw marks of a dog. Who has rescued Bella? Who could be so small and be alone on this remote beach? Biddy's search takes her into wild secret country where she discovers the truth about a mysterious disappearance that happened many years ago. Alison Lester's picture books are loved by families around the world. In this gripping adventure story, set in the Australian bush she knows so well, she comes into her own as a writer and a born storyteller.

Author Notes

Alison Lester was born on November 17, 1952, in Foster, Victoria, Australia. She received a higher diploma in teaching at The Melbourne Teacher's College, where she trained as a secondary arts and crafts teacher. Before she began writing and illustrating her own books, she worked as an art teacher and an illustrator. She is the author and illustrator over 25 picture books. Her first novel, The Quicksand Pony, won an Australian Young Readers Book Award and a Children's Book Council of America (CBCA) Book of the Year Award. Her picture books Clive Eats Alligators and the Journey Home each won a CBCA Picture Book of the Year Award. She was Australia's Inaugural Children's Laureate from 2011-2012. In 2016, she was awarded the Children's Language and Literature Award from the Speech Pathology Australia Book of the Year Awards and inducted into the Speech Pathology Australia's Book of the Year Hall of Fame. She was awarded the 2016 Dromkeen Medal for her body of work and its contribution to the development of children's literature in Australia.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 4^-6. There's something promising about a novel that begins with a map. In this book it defines a bit of Australian wilderness called the headland, a peninsula that includes mountains, cliffs, and a place called the Secret Valley. Here, Joycie, a distressed young mother, hides away with her infant son, Joe, leaving behind her father and brother, who search for the duo and eventually conclude that they must have drowned. Cut to a scene nine years later as young Biddy joins her parents on their annual horseback trek to bring back the cattle that have been grazing on the headland. The two stories converge when Biddy meets the now-orphaned Joe and new adventures unfold. Young readers will find plenty to like here: the survival story of a teenager raising a child in the wild, the growing-up story of a girl getting her first taste of independence and responsibility, the adventure tale of a pony stuck in quicksand and given up for lost, and the satisfying knotting of many threads into a happy ending. An absorbing first novel with a strong sense of place. --Carolyn Phelan

Publisher's Weekly Review

"The moon was full the night they disappeared." This hushed, cryptic opening sets up readers for disappointment in this disjointed tale told through several viewpoints. The first perspective is from a woman fleeing with a baby by boat under cover of darkness, "to the hidden valley she remembered from so long ago." Almost nine years have passed in the next chapter, when Lester (Tess Snaps Snakes) introduces Biddy, who lives on a sheep and cattle farm with her parents and grandfather. Next, Biddy's best friend (who doesn't appear again until near the end of the book) reveals a family "secret" about her aunt Joycie, a young grieving widow who ran away from home and allegedly drowned with her infant son, Joe. Eventually the threads of the story join during a cattle drive on the headland when Biddy's horse, Bella, gets trapped in quicksand and Joe saves the animal. Intermittently, the author offers a rather sluggish account of how Joycie and Joe subsist in the wild, undetected, for years (sleeping in a cave, spearing fish and occasionally snatching essentials from a ranger's supplies). Though the author treats readers to some lyrical passages, she never fully develops the relationships between Biddy and her horse, or Joycie and Joe, so that the dramatic scene when Biddy abandons Bella to the quicksand doesn't have much impact. The vague time lapses between chapters from different characters' perspectives exacerbate the problem. Unfortunately, this novel does not succeed either as fully realized horse story or mystery. Ages 10-14. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 4-7-How exciting to read a novel for this audience that is so rich and multilayered. It is a gripping adventure story, a tale of survival, an engaging mystery, a touching animal story, and a family saga. All of these elements are held together by a wonderful sense of place and incorporate important yet subtly delivered themes of resilience, independence, and dependence. The opening chapter tells of a bereft young woman who chooses to leave behind her life and family in town to raise her son alone in the remote Australian headlands. With a shift forward nine years, readers meet a new character, 10-year-old Biddy, who is allowed for the first time to muster and drive the cattle home with her parents. When her beloved horse is caught in quicksand, Biddy is devastated that she must leave Bella, with only a slim hope that the animal will somehow get free. Returning the next day to the desolate beach, the child finds that the horse has escaped, with help provided by a set of small human footprints. Her search for Bella takes her into a wild, secret country where she discovers the truth about the mother and child's mysterious disappearance nine years earlier. The story shifts back and forth between Biddy and the boy until their meeting near the novel's conclusion when Joe's loneliness, Biddy's search for her horse, and their mutual curiosity bring them together. Australian idioms and bush customs are explained in context. This book will be easy to recommend to readers of varied interests.-Connie Tyrrell Burns, Mahoney Middle School, South Portland, ME (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.