Title: Dixie Dobie
Author: Margaret S. Johnson and Helen Lossing Johnson
Publisher: Harcourt Brace & Company
ISBN: none, but click here to view it on Amazon
Length: 90 pages
Illustrations: several pencil drawings
Quote: “The most important animals on Sable Island are wild ponies.”
On Sable Island off Nova Scotia, as on Chincoteague, harsh conditions have caused an abandoned herd of horses to evolve into a breed of sturdy “ponies.” These ponies were sometimes rounded up and sold to people on the mainland. Dixie Dobie is the story of a Sable Island pony.
Written for grades two through four, this is a simple be-kind-to-animals story that will appeal to even younger children if they are precocious readers or if the story is read aloud to them. Sophisticated fourth grade readers might pronounce it dull. There’s no suspense, no surprise.
The pony’s first purchasers, a family called Dobie, expect “Dixie” to behave like a well trained farm horse and are predictably disappointed. Her next human family, the Bradfords, add “Dobie” to her name, take the time to make friends with Dixie Dobie, and are able to benefit from her toughness and good sense.
If it’s not the straight facts, Dixie Dobie is certainly true in essence, and predictable as it can be. There are no distracting subplots or characterizations. Like the drawings of horses, people, and landscapes that break up the text, this story is meant to communicate information clearly, not to entertain anyone with flights of imagination.
As a first book about How to Care for Your Pony, Dixie Dobie might disappoint children who imagine that the bonding process will be as quick in real life as it sounds in the story. Adults reading this story to children who are going to be living with any kind of animal may want to emphasize that, although Johnson didn’t expect anyone to sit around and read about each day, the Bradfords would have spent months making friends with their feral, independent pet.
People who seriously intend to adopt a feral horse will need more informative books than Dixie Dobie. In fact, they’ll probably need a support group. Nevertheless, Dixie Dobie is a nice first book for those people to give to young children as a pre-introduction to their new friend.
Wild pony photo from Thelesleyshow at www.morguefile.com/archive/display/977192: