Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Secret Agent #27

TITLE: THE RUNAWAYS: A Billie Rose Tackett Horse Adventure
GENRE: MG Fantasy Horse Adventure

I shouldn’t pick that funny looking pony, the one with the scruffy red coat and ears cocked sideways. But I know I will.

She turns her head and stares right at me like she knows I’ll choose her.

I suspect at one time her creamy mane and tail flowed long and straight, but now it’s dirty and tangled. Big patches of shaggy winter coat hang from her flanks. Her forelock drapes over one eye in a matted strand. I’d love to spend hours brushing her, cleaning her up, just being with her and smelling her horsiness.

“Okay kids come on in,” yells the ticket taker. “Mount your favorite pony.”

I race right to her. She stands much taller than the other ponies. I stroke along the front of her face. Her head hangs low, eyelids half closed.

I push aside the hank of hair so she can see better, then pull up the extra-large saddle blanket. It covers her bony rump all the way to her tail. Oh, poor pony. I feel her ribs and my heart cries.
“Rita Rose,” I yell to my big sister waiting for me outside the fence. “This pony’s too skinny. And look at the poop all over her little belly. I can’t ride her. She’s sick.”

The pony turns her head. Her dark eyes are now wide-open looking right into mine. Weird tingles stretch up through my scalp and down my back. I feel a little wobbly.


  1. You had me at Fantasy Horse Adventure. Love all horse stories! You do a good job of making me like your MC and I think readers will be sympathetic towards the poor pony so will want to know what happens. Nice that she feels tingles, making me wonder about the magic to come. This has a nice lower MG voice. Good job!

  2. My thought was why did the man who owned the pony put her out to ride if she was all dirty, had poop on her, had matted hair, etc? Why would all the ponies be clean and cared for, except for this one? And why would he put it out to ride? Wouldn't that be bad for business?

    The horse can still be in this terrible state, but I do think there has be a resaon for it, and for the owner not to care.

    Other than that, I think it's a good intro into what could be a nice series.

  3. The premise sounds interesting but how did she know the horse was sick as opposed to skinny? The poop was a little off putting, but perhaps kids would like it. I think boys more than girls would enjoy "poop" and I'm guessing this is targeted more toward girls.

    I really liked the girl imagining the pony as it was. I definitely was drawn to the girl and her empathy for this bedraggled pony even before she got the tingles. With a little cleaning up I would want to keep reading!

  4. I like this. I immediately feel for the pony. So often you read of mistreated rescue dogs or cats, but a horse... And I get the vibe like this one can read her thoughts. A great start for sure. I want to read more.
    In response to an above comment, I'm guessing the owner is a dirtbag who doesn't care about the condition of his horses. It also seems like the MC knows horses and gets this one is sick b/c of the poop on it. I could be wrong, but that's what I took away from it. Again, nice job.

  5. nice job of creating sympathy for the poor pony and a MC who obviously knows horses and cares about animals. Young MG animal lovers would enjoy this read. Nice interiority with the thoughts of the MC. Wondering: is the MC a girl? age? Are they at some sort of carnival? I think you could place us in the setting more at the start. Good luck.

  6. Is this book one in the series or are readers already familiar with these characters (asking because of the title, and if so, it might do away with some initial new reader questions)? Where are we that they are taking tickets and just letting the kids run up to the ponies as if they were on a merry-go-round? That seems unsafe to me. The fact that the child can assess the pony as sick, too, along with the series title, makes me assume that the siblings are familiar with horses already, so why would they be somewhere paying for rides? Not that all of these questions can't have legitimate answers that make the concerns go away, but if this is the first book in the series, I think readers may be better served by establishing a background of the characters before introducing them to the pony that's most likely going to be the focus for the book. As a horse owner myself, too, I wonder why this one is different than the rest (if it is). Wouldn't they all be living in the same conditions? Was this horse older, more susceptible to sickness somehow?

    I'm also wondering how this develops into a fantasy, since the problem seems to be one based in reality (a rescue horse setup). At first, when he had them just run up and pick their pony, I even reread it thinking maybe it was a merry-go-round, and the fantasy part was that she could see the horses as real and this one needed help. That odd mental loop I made may have impacted some of the questions I developed, so I thought I should mention it. :)

  7. Jessica,

    First, I want to thank you for all the great suggestions you gave me. You must have spent hours critiquing all fifty of us. Amazing!

    It is a series of two books. My first big mistake was not including the date and place, August 1946, Laughing Creek, West Virginia. I left that out in order to include the last two sentences that I had hoped to hint to the reader that something fantastical might be happening. Back in the 1940s and 1950s it wasn't unusual for the children to run into a pony ride ring and mount their favorite pony. If a child couldn't get into the saddle help would soon arrive.

    Thank you again for all the helpful suggestions. I'm already on them.