The Red Pony is a novella by John Steinbeck, released in 1937. It is a combination of four short stories written over the previous few years, each describing the life of a rural family in Northern California. All four chapters together add up less than one hundred pages, this is a short book.
The book is a bildungsroman of sorts, showing how young Jody Tiflin learns the lessons of adulthood. His family is poor and close to nature, and so those lessons come very directly, even brutally. As the title would suggest, much of this book is taken up with young Jody's love for horses, and those familiar with the tropes of young adult literature, as well as those who had pets growing up, will know how much this will teach him about caring and loss.
This book is somewhat of a shaggy dog (shaggy horse?) story. The vocabulary and writing style are kept to a minimum, and the book uses mostly direct dialogue and description to convey its contents, rather than introspection. There was, as far as I can tell, very little symbolism or hidden agendas in the book. This book is exactly what it appears to be.
And this was, to me, a great book. John Steinbeck is one of the most famous American writers, one of two Nobel Prize winners who the average high school student will encounter. And reading this book, stripped down of the large casts of characters and epic plots in The Grapes of Wrath or East of Eden, his talent as a writer shines. With only the barest of tools, he communicates a touching, and brutal story, that can be read in one sitting.