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3.89  ·  Rating details ·  418 ratings  ·  75 reviews
Things are hard for eleven-year-old Yonder. Her mother died and her father has sunk into sadness. She doesn't have a friend to her name . . . except for Dirt, the Shetland pony next door.
Dirt has problems of his own. He's overweight, he's always in trouble, and his owner is the mean Miss Enid, who doesn't have the patience for a pony's natural curiosity. His only friend i
Hardcover, 224 pages
Published July 25th 2017 by Scholastic Press
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Average rating 3.89  · 
Rating details
 ·  418 ratings  ·  75 reviews

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Korrina  (OwlCrate)
Apr 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Short and sweet book!
Ms. Yingling
The idea of therapy horses in very intriguing, especially given the author's experience with them, but this was too far on the quirky/sad scale for me personally. Mother dies, father is unable to cope, main character refuses to speak AND is bullied. I have a deeply personal objection to parents who can't move on after a loss, and I don't have students who request this sort of book. I was also unreasonably irritated that Yonder bought her clothes at the Goodwill, but she bought frayed denim overa ...more
Ryn Lewis
Jun 02, 2018 rated it liked it
Yonder’s mother has died, and her father has turned from a playful, adoring dad to a grieving alcoholic, wasting away in his bedroom and barely remembering Yonder is alive. Yonder, an elective mute, keeps things together at home, and struggles silently through middle school, the frequent target of a pack of school bullies. Dirt is a filthy and overweight Shetland pony, who will eat anything in sight and loves attention. A friendship springs up between the two outcasts, but trouble brews in the f ...more
Jan 15, 2019 rated it liked it
A young girl dealing with grief and abandonment finds a friend in an overweight, overly ornery, Shetland pony and together they face a hostile world. The main protagonist, Yonder, and "Dirt", the pony, are well formed characters but the other characters didn't feel "real" at any time. It is a cute story. Unfortunately, the reading level is about 6th grade while the story will appeal more to someone at a 3-4th grade level making it a hard book to recommend unless you have someone who reads above ...more
Jul 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I wasn’t sure if I would like this book but I was hooked by page 3. I can’t wait to share this with my 4th graders.
Josie Fortman
Jun 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Really good book! I do recommend! If you like horse books you’ll love this! It’s about a girl who finds a Shetland pony and they have a very fun adventure. You’ll have to read to find out the rest!
"Voice is different than speech, although most people think it's the same. Your voice is who you really are, not who you pretend to be."

Yonder hasn't spoken a word in 4 years, after the death of her mother. "I decided not to speak. Silence seemed safer." And to say life has been a struggle is an understatement. For one thing, Heywood Prune, the "biggest bully in my life," never seems to let up and when you don't speak, there's not a lot you can do to defend yourself. Then there's Yonder's father
Savanna Goss
May 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
“My father once explained that they named me Yonder because there’s always something to learn, way up ahead, yonder. Always a surprise right around the corner, sometimes sweet and sometimes sad, but always a fork in the road that could change your life.” “Dirt” by Denise Gosliner Orenstein, tells a story about an eleven-year old girl struggling with loss from her mother who died unexpectedly in a car crash. Yonder doesn’t have any friends, or at least any normal ones. Her best friend becomes thi ...more
This one is a 3.5 for me, and while it won't fit everyone's tastes, it does explore how one girl copes with grief and loss in the only ways she knows how even while the adults in her life seem less than capable. I would be hard pressed to add one more burden to the protagonist's life since she's dealing with far more than her share of life challenges. Eleven-year-old Yonder stops speaking after the death of her mother while her father falls further into alcoholism and can barely bring himself to ...more
Valerie McEnroe
I was excited to read this book. The cover is cute as heck and I wanted some new horse material to recommend to students. I'll give it to the author on the quality of the writing. She has a good sense of character and voice. Because of that I wouldn't go below 3 stars on the rating.

Here's the problem. This book has every negative theme out there in middle grade literature. In fact, I've now decided that not only do I need a bookshelf for teen angst books, but now also a middle grade angst shelf.
Yonder has a lot on her plate. An alcoholic father, a mother who died several years back, poverty and hunger. Her method for coping with all of the loss and hardship: mutism. Yonder stopped talking when her beloved mom died in a car accident.

Now, she's in middle school--still silent--and being bullied. She can't speak for herself, so the bullying goes unchecked, and Yonder is more likely than not to be punished for the pranks and abuses. When the neighbor's Shetland pony turns up, overweight, ru
Cindy Mitchell *Kiss the Book*
Dirt by Denise Gosliner Orenstein, 214 pages. Scholastic, 2017. $17.

Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG



Yonder’s mom has died four years earlier and her dad has withdrawn into his room and the bottle. She knows that even her screams would not bring back her mom and has decided to stop using her voice completely. Now, however, bullies are riding her mercilessly at school, and the teachers do not see the abuse, blaming h
Peggy Tibbetts
Jun 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Pippi Longstocking meets Black Beauty in this satisfying summer read. Eleven-year old Yonder lives with her dad in a little crooked house in Shelter, Vermont. When her mom died four years earlier her dad said, “We can choose to stop moving up that rocky path or we can decide something else.” Yonder chose to stop talking and her dad chose to withdraw from life in an alcoholic haze. Yonder and her dad are dirt poor and for that, as well as her name, she is bullied endlessly at school. When an unsy ...more
Feb 08, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Middle grade realistic fiction. Themes include overcoming adversity, speaking up for yourself, and accepting help. Yonder is a middle school girl that has been mute since her mother died. She lives in a small house with her alcoholic father. They barely scrape by, with his job attendance being spotty. Yonder is the target of bullying at school, and no adults at school seem to notice.
Yonder spends some time not attending school. A neighbor's pony wanders over and the two become friends. She name
Nov 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
I want to adopt Yonder.

Yonder's mother has died, and she is so traumatized that she has gone selectively mute, to make matters worse, her father is drinking excessively and he is neglecting his parental duties, causing Yonder to have to raise herself.

At school, things are even worse. Yonder is being bullied relentlessly. Emotional and physical assaults happen daily, and they are too much for her to endure, so she leaves school...permanently. This decision causes a chain reaction of pain which le
Jul 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
After Yonder's mom dies, she and her dad are struck with grief and have trouble picking up the pieces. It doesn't help that Yonder is also being bullied at school. She makes friends with the neighbor's Shetland pony who seems to be going through a rough time too. The pony is overweight and dirty, thus earns the name Dirt.

Yonder learns that her neighbor wants to sell Dirt for meat, and she needs to do everything she can to keep that from happening. After being suspended, Yonder takes advantage of
Jan 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
11 year old Yonder, an electively mute girl, deals with the death of her mother 4 years ago, a neglectful, alcoholic father, and a school bully who repeatedly picks on her. She befriends a one-eyed Shetland pony who shows up in her yard, and ends up hiding him when her neighbor who owns him tries to sell him for horsemeat. Events escalate and she must deal with her father's stroke, a truancy officer, abused animals from a small town zoo, and foster parents. This first person narrative has an eng ...more
Feb 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: finished
Dirt By: Denise Gosliner Orenstein
Yonder, Dirt, and her father are the main characters in the book who go through a sad time in present day life. Yonder is a eleven year old girl who also loves to read. She is also not social and has no friends , but for Dirt. Dirt is a stray Shetland pony who is overweight and he likes to make trouble. Dirt showed up one day and Yonder was at first scared and then fell in love with him. Yonder has a bully who doesn’t leave her alone. He punches her in the stom
Nov 18, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I want to adopt Yonder.

Yonder's mother has died, and she is so traumatized that she has gone selectively mute, to make matters worse, her father is drinking excessively and he is neglecting his parental duties, causing Yonder to have to raise herself.

At school, things are even worse. Yonder is being bullied relentlessly. Emotional and physical assaults happen daily, and they are too much for her to endure, so she leaves school...permanently. This decision causes a chain reaction of pain which le
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Mar 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Book #18 Read in 2018
Dirt by Denise Gosliner Orenstein

Yonder is a young girl with not a lot to say....though there is a lot going on in her head. She does not talk and does not tell her father about being the victim of bullying at school and does not tell her teachers how much her father drinks. Then she finds Dirt, a scruffy Shetland pony that her neighbor plans of selling for horse meat, and she knows he is meant to be her pony. She hides Dirt in her room until the social worker finds out. Yon
Jan 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
A sweet story about some tough issues. 11 year old Yonder has lost her mother and stability at home because her father is so depressed and sad that he spends almost everyday and night sleeping and drinking in his room. He loves his daughter and does his best to care for her, but he cannot get out of the cycle of his grief and depression. In order to cope with all of the pain in her life, Yonder has completely stopped talking, and uses other modes of communication. On top of that Yonder is tormen ...more
Jan 25, 2019 rated it liked it
I read this to my 8 year old daughter. It kept us coming back. A good story of how animals can help humans as therapy, and otherwise. At the same time, I found something just slightly lacking from this book, but could not quite put my finger on it. However, when I think about it, it might have actually been my general frustration with the girl not being able to talk (she was mute after a tragedy) and not able to get the help she needed, which actually means the author was very effective in getti ...more
Jun 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
After Yonder's mother died, she stopped talking. Yonder retreated into herself and stopped really living. Her father is barely present and deals with his own grief through liquor. The other children at school bully Yonder mercilessly. When Yonder finds a mistreated Shetland pony, Dirt, she decides to take the animal in and show him kindness she doesn't receive from others. Soon Yonder's new friend and life are threatened by well-meaning adults.

I enjoyed this read. I can certainly see myself giv
Jun 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
yonder is an eleven year old fifth grade girl who has not said a word since the death of her mother four years ago. she lives with her father, who may or may not be an alcoholic, in a crooked house. though the father isn't capable of looking after her due to his 'depression' it is clear that he loves her. she suffers bullying from other children, specifically one boy. she meets 'dirt' a one eyed neglected shetland pony from the farm down the street. this is a children's book but it broke my hea ...more
Dec 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
My 10-year old son *adores* this book. This is what he has to say: "This book helped me a lot in dealing with losing Sunny (a pet chicken that he was extremely attached to). I felt very happy at the end of the story."

My son uses this book as the standard to measure all other books. The feeling of warmth and happiness that he got at the end of the story has left an indelible impression on him. He told me that he had cried while reading this story and feels very attached to Dirt, the pony. He iden
Jul 02, 2018 rated it liked it
Quirky sad story of elective mute girl told in her voice. Her mom has died, her dad is overcome w grief and over drinking, kids at school bully her mercilessly, and her teachers never suspect the real culprits. Only a stray overweight pony seems to be able to hear her inner voice and respond to her needs. She is determined to help the pony, but after she is taken from her home by Child Protection services, it takes even more extraordinary effort, ingenuity, risk-taking, and courage to save her p ...more
Lonna Pierce
Jun 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Yonder is a girl with much weighing heavily on her mind. After her mother's untimely death, her father crumples, and finds solace in drink. Meanwhile, at school, she is being tormented by bullies and cruel gangs. In the midst of this turmoil, Yonder stops speaking entirely. Trudy, a social services worker tries to help, but it's a rude, dirty, disheveled Shetland pony Yonder names Dirt that makes a difference. Oddly, this glutton of a horse actually understands and responds to Yonder's unspoken ...more
Laura Gardner
Feb 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ for DIRT by #denisegoslinerorenstein — this book is SAD. Yonder is eleven years old, dirt poor, mourning the loss of her mother and worries about her alcoholic father. When a neighbor’s pony, named Dirt by Yonder, adopts her, Yonder finds someone who understands her perfectly—even though she never says a word. Yep, Yonder doesn’t speak aloud once in the whole book, which makes it pretty difficult for her to communicate with humans, but Dirt just gets her. This is ultimately a beautiful ...more
Sara Truog
Sep 04, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: juvenile
Kooky story about a girl who develops a strong connection with a Shetland pony, and brings it to live with her inside her home. Throw in an alcoholic dad, the fact that this pony does not belong to her, and regular visits from a social worker and you've got serious conflict!
I found this book interesting, but am unclear on who its readers will be. Mature animal lovers, perhaps. It's an unusual read, that's for sure.
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Denise Gosliner Orenstein is a graduate of Bennington College and Brown University. Her career in education includes teaching at American University in Washington, D.C. as well as in bush villages thoughout the state of Alaska. Additionally, she has cooked for for an Alaskan village prison, worked as a PEN prison writing mentor, taught literature classes and assisted in a canine therapy program fo ...more

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