‘Ryan O’Brien the Smallest Horse of All’ is the story of identity in its most simple form. Ryan O’ Brien describes all the important ways in which he is ‘big’, providing a model for nurturing self-esteem. The narrative shifts subtly from the superficial and physical qualities of self-description to qualities of character and of emotion, culminating in Ryan O’ Brien directly asking the young reader “Who are you?”
When Ryan O’Brien’s best friend, Mousey, leaves the Meadow forever Ryan is sad and lonely. The narrative tells of his quest to find a new best friend, working through frustration and disappointment to happy solution. Ryan O’ Brien discovers that when the problem seems too big for him, he can always ask for help.
When Jodie-Lee, a very fancy pony, comes to the Meadow on holidays, Clarissa is jealous of her. She thinks Ryan will now ignore her because she is ‘just a shaggy Meadow pony’. Clarissa needs to be reminded that friendship is not about superficial things like looking pretty, and Jodie- Lee has to learn there is more to life than dressing up and doing tricks. The book is about having the confidence to be your self.
When a poor, thin little pony comes to live on the Meadow, Ryan O’Brien is very worried about her. The new little pony can’t tell anyone her name and won’t join in with the other horses. Tuxedo Junction, the oldest and wisest horse of all, explains to Ryan that this little pony is very sad and has lost her “whinny”. All the Meadow horses and ponies set about helping the little pony find her “whinny again”. This book is a joyous story of recovering from trauma and depression.
Mr Kalinski is a beautiful dressage horse but underneath that very smart veneer he is a bully. His bullying upsets every horse on the Meadow. How will the Meadow horses and ponies deal with him? Will they be mean and exclude him or is there a better way to deal with the problem? Ryan O’ Brien makes an important discovery that helps us understand why Mr Kalinski is a bully.
Monty Malone looks different to all the other horse and ponies on The Meadow and this causes some problems at first. Ryan O’ Brien and his friends have to learn that underneath all those spots he is no different to any of them. They discover that he is kind, fun and very brave. Monty Malone doesn’t worry about having spots. In fact he is quite proud of them!