Joan Hiatt Harlow

Secret of the Night Ponies

Secret of the Night Poines book cover

Joan with Award

Awarded: Gold Florida Book Award Children's Literature 2009


Two weeks after publication, SECRET OF THE NIGHT PONIES was awarded the PARENTS' CHOICE SEAL

Parents' Choice Seal


Winner of the CROWN AWARD for excellence in Children's Literature

Florida Book Award

Meet the sweet, loyal Newfoundland Ponies who were
used over the centuries to build a British colony from a rocky crag named NEWFOUNDLAND – “the beautiful rock.”

Meet the sweet, loyal Newfoundland Ponies who were
used over the centuries to build a British colony from a rocky crag named NEWFOUNDLAND – “the beautiful rock.”

Once Newfoundland became a province of Canada, the horses were replaced by trucks, cars, and machines. The ponies were neglected and destroyed. However, because of dedicated friends who became their advocates, the ponies are now protected by Canadian law as a “Heritage Animal.”

Read how Jessie discovers a frightening secret and how she and her friends lead a herd of ponies through the midnight woods, and hide them on a haunted island.

The pony above is named “Prince” and is one of the Newfoundland Ponies from the Change Island Newfoundland Pony Shelter. (Photo used with permission)

Meet Jessie Wheller


…another story of Newfoundland

Hello, my name is Jessie Wheller. It’s the 1960’s and I live with my family on a rocky cliff in Newfoundland. When I visit my friends in Gull Harbor I can hike through a long, dark “fairy path.” It’s scary there, so I usually go to the Harbor by boat. I want to drive our boat myself, but everyone says it’s too dangerous. There are rocks and mountainous waves.

So I go with my dad or my brother until one day I discover two terrible secrets in Gull Harbor. One concerns a sweet little girl named Clara. And the other is about the fate of a little herd of Newfoundland Ponies. I need to save Clara. And there must be a way to rescue the ponies. I have a plan but when a storm arises and I must take the boat for help, there’s BIG TROUBLE AHEAD!

Here’s a photo of a group of real Newfoundland Ponies from the Change Islands Newfoundland Pony Shelter in Newfoundland. These horses are heritage animals and are now protected by Newfoundland Law.

horses(Photo used with permission)



A coastal Newfoundland community in 1965 is the setting for this first-person narrative, written from 13- year-old Jessie’s point of view, and three rescues form the basis of the plot. First, Jessie helps her father and older brother save three shipwrecked people. Next, she helps a younger friend escape from her abusive guardians. And finally, she rallies her friends to save a herd of wild Newfoundland ponies that seem destined for the slaughterhouse. The seemingly separate adventures are actually tightly linked by the characters and the unusual setting, which comes to life through description, intersection with plot elements, and the local characters’ distinctive dialect. An appended author’s note comments on Newfoundland’s geography, history, and ponies. Although some may see the story as a bit old-fashioned, others will find its evocation of this time and place convincing and involving. Headstrong Jessie is a winning heroine and her story well worth reading. — Carolyn Phelan


Strong-willed and compassionate Jessie, 13, loves her island home of Newfoundland. With the help of Blizzard, her dependable dog, she and her family rescue three shipwreck victims. The survivors repay her later on with their friendship and support when she befriends an abused child, and when she devises a daring and dangerous plan to save some wild ponies from being rounded up for the slaughterhouse. As in Star in the Storm (S & S, 2000), Harlow captures the rigors and rewards of island life, this time in 1965, with interesting characters, an empathetic heroine, and a fast-paced plot.– Carol Schene, formerly at Taunton Public Schools, MA