A pony, a flock of gossipy chickens, a mouse couple with their children and a gardening ladybug and her family live happily together on a farm, along with Patch’s special girl, Sam. However, as the only pony amidst the groups of animal friends, Patch sometimes feels lonely. The first page says it all: “It wasn’t that he didn’t have friends. He did. But sometimes he felt like he didn’t quite fit in.” The illustration on this page rather cleverly enhances this feeling by showing only Patch’s leg – the other characters are there but poor Patch really doesn’t fit in the page.
Despite enjoying spending time with his friends, Patch feels something is missing. It is Sam who hits on an idea to help him… and along comes Ruby. After an initial stand-off, the two ponies become friends and “now life is different.” The daily routine remains the same, but is all the more enjoyable now that it can be shared by someone special.
The text is written to suit very young readers and its sentences, though simple, convey an important idea of friendship and belonging. There is also a gentle example of being a kind and thoughtful friend by watching out for and caring for others – Sam notices Patch is unhappy and thinks of a way to help him.
Gwynneth Jones’ illustrations work brilliantly together with the text. The characters are soft and friendly, and there are wonderful funny moments to look out for in the scenes (chooks with curlers and mice drinking tea – love it!).
Young readers will be drawn to the cute pony on the cover (as was I), and the story will appeal to those who love animals. Parents may find Patch and Ruby helpful for little ones who are still in the process of finding their special friends.
Reviewed by Vanessa Hatley-Owen
Patch and Ruby
by Anouska Jones, illustrated by Gwynneth Jones