Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an unbiased review
To be honest, this is the time of horse book that I normally hate. There is a bit too much romanticism to be honest, and the ending sequence is bit too sugary.
Yet, and it is a big yet.
Yet, this is actually pretty good. Part of this is the afterword where Szymanski acknowledges that the story is romanticized This furthered not only by a summary of actual facts but also a page identifying the other horses, each with a brief biography. There is even detail about other animals on the island with a challenge presented to find them in the illustrations. These last few pages carry the book from a 3 or 4-star book to a 4 or 5.
The basic story is that of Surfer Dude, a stallion on the island of Assateague. He was popular among residents and tourists because of his good looks. His life is a little atypical, in particular in regards to one of his sons.
The artwork is quite lovely and fits the story quite well. The animals are well drawn, and the ponies look like ponies as opposed to well-groomed thoroughbreds. It is quite easy to imagine prints of the illustrations on a wall.
Despite the sometimes-romanticized tone, Szymanski doesn’t shy away from horse herd behavior, in particular the rejection of older colts by stallions.