Publisher: Puffin

One night, three men arrive outside the house Silas Bird shares with his father and insist that his father go with them straightaway to see Mr Ollorenshaw, who has a lucrative job for him to do. Seeing that they’re dangerous men, Pa eventually agrees to go, but tells Silas to wait for him in the house until he gets home.

However, Silas is really scared about what will happen to Pa – who the men seem to think is someone called Mac Boat – and not even his ghostly friend Mittenwool can persuade him that he should stay home and wait for Pa.

When one of the horses (which Silas names Pony) from the bad men’s retinue reappears at Silas’ house, Silas takes it as a sign that he should go after Pa and try to save him, and so sets off into the woods around the small frontier town of Boneville, where he lives. Yet the journey to finding Pa is perilous, and along the way Silas will find out much more about his mother and father than he knew before – and himself.

This unusual tale of a boy and his father, set in 1800s America, is both a brilliant adventure and a heartfelt story about love and loss. It’s very unusual to find a children’s book with such a fully realised setting in the old west, and young readers will be entranced by Palacio’s world of campfires, horses, counterfeiters and creeks. Silas Bird is a wonderful character, and we’re rooting for him from the first page, as well as being intrigued about who – and what – Mittenwool really is.

A book that feels like a classic after just a few pages, Pony is going to be very popular with Year 7s upwards.

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