Family movie night? There's an app for that
Download our new mobile app on iOS and Android.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Pony is steeped in the science and stories Silas has learned from his father, including the technical details of how to get a good photograph of the moon with the available technology of the mid-1800s, and also knights and other legendary heroes. The Odyssey, as well as the search of Telemachus for his father, are mentioned often and mirror Silas' own quest. Having grown up with far more contact with books than with people, Silas speaks with educated formality. A detailed afterword summarizes the extensive research that went into the story and refers you to further reading, from Thomas Traherne to Frederick Douglass.
Strong messages of friendship, family, teamwork, courage, atonement, quick thinking, kindness -- and doing good with the resources you have.
Positive Role Models
Twelve-year-old Silas is terrified but determined as he sets off on his hero's journey in search of his abducted father. His constant companions -- the white-faced, blue-eyed horse Pony, and Mittenwool, a ghost who looks like a teenage boy and has been Silas' companion all his life -- are always there for him and help him meet many challenges. Silas' father has given him a happy childhood of love and learning, never revealing his criminal past; his mother, who died when he was born, hovers as a strong presence in the story, from causing her husband to change his bad ways to her violin that accompanies Silas on his travels. Assorted characters he meets, some of whom are ghosts, offer insights and assistance along the way.
One of the supporting characters is gay and mourning his lost love, who died in a past war. The story takes place just before the Civil War, and past and present characters opposed slavery. The afterword notes that the Napoleonic Code in France decriminalized homosexuality in the 19th century.
Did we miss something on diversity? Suggest an update.
Violence & Scariness
There's plentiful Old West-style violence and gore: gunplay, hand-to-hand combat, falling off cliffs, fatal wounds, and gruesome injuries -- including one scene where a character grabs a gun the villain's aiming at his friend and has his hands blown off, another where a horse misses a jump and breaks her leg. Lot of threats, multiple characters die. Ghosts, who tend to appear with missing body parts, bleeding wounds, or other evidence of their cause of death, are essential to the story; harroing forest scenes involve the mangled ghosts of Native Americans massacred by settlers. Earlier in his childhood, Silas was struck by lightning.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Violence & Scariness in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Sex, Romance & Nudity
A man and a woman fall in love, get married, and have a child; another couple is recently married and there's a lot of loving banter in their relationship. A gay character is mourning his dead love.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Sex, Romance & Nudity in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Often hilariously creative alternatives to more problematic curse words, including "dad-blasted," "dod-rotted."
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Language in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
It's the Old West, and adult characters drink alcohol, including one who keeps it in his canteen instead of water.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Drinking, Drugs & Smoking in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Pony is a hero's journey/coming-of-age tale, set in the Old West on the eve of the Civil War, by R.J. Palacio (Wonder, White Bird). Part old-school Western, part ghost story, it follows 12-year-old protagonist Silas Bird, who's been considered a little odd most of his life because, unlike most of the people around him, he sees ghosts, whether he wants to or not -- and one of them, who looks like a teenage boy, has been his constant companion since he was little. When outlaws abduct Silas' father, who, unbeknownst to Silas, has a long-buried dark past, the boy sets out to save him, accompanied by his ghost BFF, his long-dead mom's violin, and a mysterious white-faced, blue-eyed horse. They encounter many people, living and dead, in a narrative that frequently cites The Odyssey. History, literature, and science of the day are essential to the story, and author Palacio provides extensive references for further reading in the afterword. Violence and gore are plentiful, with gunplay, hand-to-hand-combat, grievous wounds, lost limbs, and more. Multiple characters die. A character has his hands blown off. A horse misses a jump and breaks her leg. Ghosts tend to appear with missing body parts, bleeding wounds, or other evidence of their cause of death. Harrowing forest scenes involve the mangled ghosts of Native Americans massacred by settlers. Adult characters drink alcohol. There are also strong messages of family, friendship, kindness, resourcefulness, and having the courage to do the right thing.
Is It Any Good?
R.J. Palacio crafts a timeless hero's-journey tale of the Wild West with a tween boy, his best friend (a ghost), and the mysterious horse who carries him on a perilous quest for his abducted dad. With frequent references and parallels to The Odyssey, Pony's young hero often thinks of Odysseus' son Telemachus and that boy's quest to find his own father, and reflects on science and the classics while encountering deadly perils from wild rivers, steep cliffs, and murderous outlaws. There's gunplay, gore, and ghosts, and lots of heart and kindness from characters living and dead in this fresh take on a classic theme, enriched by the antique photographs that inspired the story and characters.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
Suggest an Update
Our Editors Recommend
Best Ghost Stories for Kids and Teens
Westerns for Kids and Teens
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.See how we rate