Emily and Emerald/Cassie and Charm – by Kelly McKain, illustrated by Mandy Stanley


Emily and Emerald (9781680104431) /Cassie and Charm (9781680104424)(Pony Camp Diaries) by Kelly McKain, illustrated by Mandy Stanley, Tiger Tales,  c2007 (Great Britain) / 2019 (USA)


Format: Paperback

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or starred review) 3.5

Genre:  Realistic fiction

What did you like about the book? Originally published in the UK, these diaries are being reprinted to appeal to a broader audience. While the English spellings and vernacular have been changed to reflect this market, the books still have a bit of British flair and tone, which isn’t distracting, but worth noting. The premise of all of the books is the same – young girls with varying backstories arrive at Sunnyside Stables ready (or not so ready) to immerse themselves in all things horse-related for one week. Each story is written in a first-person diary format. In Emerald’s case, she and her mom recently relocated to Denver from Philadelphia. Even though she’s feeling shy and uncertain, she makes a new friend, Frankie, and finds a soulmate in her horse, Emerald. Cassie arrives at camp a bit begrudgingly as a consolation prize of sorts for having to sell her beloved pony, Apple, after having become too big to ride her. Eventually, Cassie warms up to the camp, competes in the cross country competition, and Charm helps her to see that she can indeed enjoy riding other ponies while still fondly remembering Apple. The texts feature graphic style pen and ink drawings that include maps, diagrams, and drawings of key characters. In addition, each of the books has a glossary of technical horse terms, a quiz, and information on pony markings and colors. Each text ends with a teaser chapter from the next book in the series.

Anything you didn’t like about it? The author used the slang “cos” instead of “because” quite frequently throughout each book. While this isn’t formal literature, I still found it to be awkward and not necessary. The stories themselves are likely to appeal to elementary children who adore horses. That said, they dig a bit deeper into the lingo and may not be fully appreciated or accessible because of that. The additional information at the end of each book is identical down to the words listed in the glossary and the questions posed on the quiz. It seems like a missed opportunity to continue to engage dedicated readers of the series.

To whom would you recommend this book?  Fans of the Pony Crazed Princess series may enjoy this step up to a more technical horse series. Any child interested in horses would find these books enjoyable, albeit perhaps a bit repetitive.

Who should buy this book? Elementary and public libraries looking for a high-interest horse-based series.

Where would you shelve it ? Fiction or series chapter books

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Linda Broderick, Lincoln Street Elementary School, Northboro, MA

Date of review: 8/18/19

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