First edition cover
|Illustrator||Henry Van Der Linde|
In Pit Pony, Barkhouse describes life in a coal-mining town in turn-of-the-century Cape Breton and also deals with the importance of education. It is the story of Willie and Gem, a pit pony. Willie is an eleven-year-old boy forced by family circumstances to work as a trapper in a Cape Breton coal mine, and Gem is a Sable Island mare working as a pit pony. As they work together, a strong bond develops between boy and horse.
The book describes the grim realities of life for a young miner – cold, exhaustion, fear – discomforts and dangers that also affected the horses. When Willie and Gem are trapped in the mine during a "bump" – with falling rock and timber, and choking dust – Willie must choose between escaping with Gem or saving the life of another young miner. Willie's choice to save the young miner's life over Gem's life sets Willie free – free to leave the mines and to pursue his education. As it turns out, however, Gem had been pregnant, and her foal is saved.
Pit Pony was named as notable by the Canadian Library Association; received the first Ann Connor Brimer Award in 1991 for "outstanding contribution to children's literature in Atlantic Canada"; and was the unanimous choice of Nova Scotia librarians to be produced as a Talking Book for the CNIB, for national and international distribution.
The first Ann Connor Brimer Award was given to Pit Pony in 1991 "for outstanding contribution to Children's Literature in Atlantic Canada".