HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Chucaro: Wild Pony of the Pampa
Author: Francis Kalnay
Illustrator: Julian De Miskey
Publisher: Walker Children’s, 1993
Language level: 2
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Recommended reading level: Ages 10 and up
Rating: ***** 5 stars
(5 stars=EXCELLENT; 4 stars=GOOD; 3 stars=FAIR; 2 stars=POOR; 1 star=VERY POOR; no stars=NOT RECOMMENDED)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Kalnay, Francis. Chucaro: Wild Pony of the Pampa (Publisher in 1958 by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich Publishers; republished in 1993 by Troll Associates, an imprint of Walker Publishing Company Inc.). Twelve year old Pedro lives with his father, a vaquero (ranch hand), on the Argentine pampa estancia (estate) of a wealthy patron (owner) named Senor Munez. Following the death of Pedro’s mother, his father has becomes addicted to alcohol, so it is the gaucho (cowboy) Juan who befriends the boy and looks after him. One day, Pedro and Juan capture one of the wild ponies that roam the pampa. They name him Chucaro and begin to tame him for Pedro to ride. However, the patrón, who legally owns the horse, desires the animal for his own son Armando, a cruel and undisciplined prankster. A roping contest between the two boys is suggested with the victor taking the pony.
How does Senor Munez respond to the offer? Who wins the contest? And what happens to Chucaro? Admittedly, this book, which was given Newbery Honor status in 1959, is a quiet, slow-moving story that lacks a great deal of drama and contains a lot of description. However, it is a pleasant, somewhat humorous tale in which the world of the Argentine pampas in South America comes to life as the author shares interesting factual information about the way of life on the pampas and the gauchos of the pampas, including their work, what they wear and eat, and how they entertain themselves. It is a great “living book” for kids studying South American geography, language, or history.
There are some common euphemisms (e.g. “darn” stuff), along with a few references to drinking wine and smoking a pipe. One reviewer wrote, “Whether intended or not, this book preps for pedophiles. The boy’s mother died, his father was an alcoholic, and Juan, who apparently only came close once to having a girlfriend, ‘raised the child.’ ‘…The boy was always on Juan’s heels.’” Some people see mirages in the desert, and some people see things in books which just aren’t there. As another reviewer said, “At no point whatsoever are boundaries confused.” Chucaro is a short book that is easy for high school or even middle school students to read. Yet, this little book packs a lot of information, and I found it funny, educational, descriptive, engaging, and delightfully entertaining.