What if Penny, an abused pony at a 1946 West Virginia county fair,
runs away to eleven-year-old Billie Rose Tackett. What if, through
"think-speak," Penny tells Billie that she was stolen and did not
belong to the carnival or the horrible, terrible pony ride keeper.
How can Billie prove the theft when who in their right mind would
believe that a horse speaks? In her quest to save Penny, Billie and
Penny show great courage and tenacity to overcome seemingly
impossible, life-threatening situations. In this fast-paced
adventure story, Billie grows in confidence as she deals with
prejudice, disability, bullying, family loss, compassion, and
Dead Witch Sink Hole . . .
“Penny? Where are you?”
Fear climbs onto my shoulders and gets heavier with every ticking
second. “Come back. Come back, Penny!” I scream.
“Well, hello little
lady,” a deep voice calls down from the rim of the sink hole. “Now,
how’d you git down there?”
face of the keeper gawks over the edge of the
my big mouth.
that ornery pony? She dump you in this hole and run off, did she?
No matter. I’ll find her. You stay put. I’ll git to you
later. I’d have caught you both by now if my machine hadn’t conked
out on me.”
moves away laughing, looking for Penny, I guess. I run over to
where I last saw Penny and shove aside the thick undergrowth. I
drop to my knees. Briars scratch my face and arms as I push further
whisper. I creep a little further.
Schwoosh! The ground
falls out from under me. Grass blades whip along my arms and face,
and then I’m hurtling through pitch black, cold air like Alice
falling down the rabbit hole.
Icy, breath-taking, black water.
I’m sucked down
into colder water until my feet hit bottom. I kick my way to the
top bursting onto the surface, coughing and gasping for air. The
echoes of me hacking bounce around a huge dark
see much of anything. Sulphur smell, like rotten eggs, tickles my
nose. My clothes get heavier by the second, hard to keep my head
water as best I can, but my shoes and dungarees are pulling me
I take them off? I’ll never see them again. Ma would
kill me, but I might drown if I don’t.
Help! Are you down here?”
I’m coming, Billie. I’m
I can hardly move my
arms, my legs, my feet. It’s so cold and they’re so
I try to dog paddle, but
only make splashes like I’m trying to climb on top of the water. I
Am I going to die
My lungs scream for air.
I thrash, but sink down and down—until my hand slaps against hard
leather, then slides down to a stirrup.
Pull yourself up,
What has happened to
I can barely hoist
myself closer to her. I feel the saddle horn. I muster all my
strength and pull myself up.
I yank myself higher and
finally gulp air while holding on to the saddle. Penny’s swimming
with her head just above the surface.
Hold on. It’s shallow over
I hang on to the saddle
until my feet feel the rocky bottom. A small beam of light streams
down through the hole we just fell through. I wade towards a ledge
ahead of me. My legs are shaking, I’m so exhausted. Penny shakes
and sprays water everywhere, like I’m not soaked enough
Are you okay,
“Yeah, I think so, but that’s the most scared I’ve ever been. If
you hadn't been there for me . . . Gee, Penny, you saved
my life!” I turn and hug her.
"Are you okay?"
Yes, just shaken up a
She presses her head
“Where are we?” Slowly
my eyes adjust to the darkness. I look around. “I’ve never been in
a cavern before, only read about them.”
It’s dripping with
stalactites and the air’s thick with dampness.
“There’s no way we can
climb out of here, Penny.”
We’re standing on a wide
rock ledge that slowly disappears into the water like the sand at a
beach. “We didn’t drown, but it sure looks like we could starve to
death down here . . . and nobody would ever find us. Now I know
what happened to that witch.”
you read makes your heart race with fast-paced action and the
imminent danger of characters who capture your heart on the first
page, you know you are reading a talented writer. Brenda
Barnes-Clark builds tension effortlessly. Just as you think Billie
with her pony, Penny, has come to a place of safety, you find they
have tumbled into the worst trouble they’ve ever experienced. A
Dooley, author of Writing with the Wind
Runaways is a
story you’ll enjoy for the adventure, the excitement, and the
pleasure of realizing animals find many ways to communicate with us
humans. The glossary offers a way to learn unfamiliar terms, breeds
of horses, and old-time sayings—don’t skip it. From beginning to
end it’s a runaway pleasure to read.
Dean, Author of Luna, The Dog Named After the
had time to read The Runaways, I couldn’t stop reading until I got
to the end. What a delightful book! I really enjoyed reading it. A
book about acceptance, about family, and how important
communication is. A wonderful friendship book of understanding one
another. Children will see themselves in the
Honorable Mayor Beverly White