Rereading: TICKTOCK AND JIM by Keith Robertson

Keith Robertson’s first novel for young readers, published in 1948, shows writing skill and appeal that would carry through his long career. He was particularly lucky in being paired with illustrator Wesley Dennis, best known for illustrating the books of Marguerite Henry like “Misty of Chincoteague,” out the year before this, as Dennis’s horses and people depictions are excellent.

Jim Meadows is sorry to have to stay home on the farm one summer day when his parents and sister Jean go to town for ice cream, but his regret is soon turned to joy. A traveling horse trader comes by, and Jim spots a skinny, unkempt cow pony that he thinks would make a great riding horse and friend. He convinces the horse trader to exchange him for his gold pocket watch, a family heirloom given to him on his last birthday. Jim knows his father won’t be happy about the trade, but Jim is delighted with his new horse, who he names Ticktock in honor of the watch.

Mr. Meadows is angry when he finds out what happened, but sister Jean and Mrs. Meadows are more sympathetic. Over the next few weeks, Jim and Ticktock become fast friends as the boy grooms, cares for, and feeds his pony back to health, and learns to ride him. Mr. Meadows allows the horse to stay for the time being, but threatens to get rid of him in the fall rather than feed him all winter, so Jim has to come up with ways to raise money. He starts a new business he calls The Pony Express Inc. to deliver messages and packages, and herd animals to his town’s livestock auction. When he and Ticktock discover a perfect hideout in the woods, things couldn’t be better, but everything in their lives is turned upside down when Ticktock is stolen by a man running from the law. Jim despairs of ever seeing his best friend again.

Great read, full of excitement, appealing characters, enterprise, and wisdom about horses and people. Highly recommended.

Ticktock and Jim by Keith Robertson

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