Friday, 24 October 2014

PBOTD 24th October: Joanna Cannan - More Ponies for Jean

In yesterday's post I was wittering on about my attempt to buy fewer books. But then we come to today's book, Joanna Cannan's More Ponies for Jean (1943). Which I do not have. And I think I have all the other Joanna Cannans (just done quick check on her bibliography - yes I do, though my copy of They Bought Her a Pony is in the Three Great Pony Stories edition, and in an absolutely ideal world it would be a lovely first edition. Not that the first of TBHAP is particularly distinguished, as it's illustrated by Rosemary Robertson, who is not one of my favourite illustrators, but still.) There is some hope on the horizon, because the first Jean story, A Pony for Jean (1936) is being republished next month by Hot Key, and if sales are good they'll probably do the other two.... 

More Ponies for Jean is a particularly satisfying book from the point of view of a pony-mad girl because Jean goes on to work with horses. Of course Joanna Cannan's own daughters (Josephine, Christine and Diana Pullein-Thompson) went on to do just this, so she had plenty of fodder to write about. I, like all the other children I read about, wanted to work with horses too. My parents were utterly opposed to this plan, which still flickered, even when I'd gone to university. Rehabilitating ponies, I thought, would be much more fun than my parents' chosen career path for me, carrying on at the university until the end of  my days.

As you'll know if you've followed me, I didn't do either of those things. But I'm very glad that Jean did. And I would like to read the book again, to live a vision of how life might have been through her.

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More on Joanna Cannan

Thursday, 23 October 2014

PBOTD 23rd October: Christine Dickenson - The Dark Horse

I am slightly handicapped attempting to write about Christine Dickenson's Dark Horse (1973) because firstly the lovely piece I'd semi-written in my head has actually used the plot of a totally different book, and when I went to find my copy of Dark Horse to check the details I found I do not actually have a copy. Ah. 

But should I buy one? I am, although my family might not believe it, trying to cut down on the number of books I buy. When I compare the number coming in with previous years I'm not actually doing too badly, though I have blown the budget somewhat by buying a whole load of PONY and Riding magazines from the early 1960s, and now I come to think of it I do very, very much want to acquire the PONY mags I don't have from the 1940s and 1950s which is in fact all of them. I might just pop over to eBay to see if there's any there. Because you never know. And magazines don't count as books. And they are useful for research, because I'm sure everyone else wants to know of obscure pony books now vanished into obscurity just as much as me.

I will see you later. EBay calls. And it isn't as if I'm going to buy a book.

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More on Christine Dickenson

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Review: Diana Kimpton - Princess Ellie's Perfect Plan

It's quite a few years since I read one of the Princess Ellie books. This is the latest, and it's an object lesson in how to get a nuanced story for the younger reader into 90 pages. Princess Ellie, because she's a princess, has to do things in a certain way. There are no gymkhanas for her, because the photographers and press who would flock round the moment they knew she was there would wreck it for everyone else. She has lessons on her own with the Royal Governess, and dinner is something you dress up for. Every day.

Besides her ponies, there's one person who makes all this bearable for Ellie: her best friend Kate. Kate is the grand daughter of the palace cook, and lives with her grandparents because her parents are often away working. And then they come back, with the news that they're going to send Kate to boarding school.

Both girls are horrified - Ellie will have to go back to doing things on her own, and Kate doesn't want to leave everything she knows. For Ellie, life will be just her, and Miss Stringle the Royal Governess and Meg the groom, but only as long as Meg's not too busy. Ellie casts about desperately for solutions, but just when she thinks she's found one Kate turns everything on its head.

I liked the way this story works on so many levels: it's a lovely story of friendship, but also about how privilege can be a gilded cage, and how tradition can hamstring you as well as protect you.

Princess Ellie and the Perfect Plan is a satisfying story with plenty of authentic, and at times exciting, pony content for the young reader, and plenty for the older reader to think about too. It's another triumph for Diana Kimpton.

Thank you to Usborne for sending me a copy of this book.

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Diana Kimpton - Princess Ellie's Perfect Plan (Pony-Mad Princess 10)
Usborne, 2014, £4.99, paperback, £1.71 Kindle, £1.99 Kobo

Age of main character: 9?
Themes: friendship, new schools

Diana Kimpton's website

PBOTD 22nd October: Jean Slaughter Doty - The Crumb

Today's book looks at riding schools in America, although to be fair Ashford Stables are rather more of a training establishment for people with their own horses than anything else. Still, human nature is the same everywhere. Heroine of this book, Cindy, gets a summer job at Ashford. A dream come true, she thinks. 

Cindy loves horses with that slightly misty passion common to so many girls, and it's a terrible shock to her when she realises just how far some of the people at Ashford will go in order to win. Mind you, ruthlessness in the pursuit of success has not exactly gone away. There are still, sadly, any amount of shenanigans going on in the showing world, and if I can pick out just one truly hideous example about which I've written in the past, Tennessee Walking Horses are still sored to produce the Big Lick, a slightly bizarre gait much prized by people who show the horse.

This has been going on for years. People have been exposed on Youtube for the practice, and legislation is only now slowly crawling along.

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More on Jean Slaughter Doty

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

PBOTD 21st October: Christine Pullein-Thompson - They Rode to Victory

They Rode to Victory (1972) is the sequel to Riders on the March. The comprehensive school team is going to compete against a team from a smart girls’ school. This is something of a fixture: the poor team never competes against another, possibly even less well off team. (K M Peyton's Who Sir? Me Sir? and Zita White's The One Day Ponies come to mind). They always have to show that grit and determination can win out against teams dripping with cash and wonderful ponies.

Life of course is not fair, and in real life sometimes those teams might have won, but it's just as likely not. Literature though is often about fairytales, and morality. If you worked hard, maybe you too could do as well.

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More on Christine Pullein-Thompson

Monday, 20 October 2014

PBOTD 20th October: Christine Pullein-Thompson - Riders on the March

There were a few books I acquired as first editions, and Christine Pullein-Thompson's Riders on the March (1970) was one of them. Of the Pullein-Thompsons, it was Christine who worked hardest at being relevant. Even in the 1950s, decade of the middle class pony owning child, Christine used working class characters. The First Rosette (1956) had as its hero David Smith, the youngest son of a family where money really is an issue: David’s family genuinely struggle, and there is no money for riding lessons, let alone ponies. 

David's struggle is contrasted with the far more conventional pony life of Pat, the daughter of the Master. After David catches Pat's pony when she falls off, he is invited to tea and offered the chance to borrow a pony. Christine carried on introducing working class characters, with Janice and Mick in The Lost Pony (1959). All these characters, and the comprehensive school pupils in Riders on the March, are all prone to the same mercurial swoops from happiness to gloom. It is as though Christine’s desire to sympathise with the difficulties of being poor leads her to over-write their emotions. Without any direct experience herself, she seems to assume there must be a heightened emotional response to life generated from being brought up in difficult circumstances.

I loved Riders on the March at the time because it dealt with characters who didn't have ponies, which was my lot, but I must admit I've found it hard to keep feeling the love over the decades. I do find the characters' emotions hard to keep on top of.

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More on Christine Pullein-Thompson

Sunday, 19 October 2014

PBOTD 19th October: Kathleen Mackenzie - Minda

It took me several years to write Heroines on Horseback, my book on the pony book. When the book finally had its last edit, my editor asked me for more quotations from several books, but I had to say no because I didn't actually have a copy of the book myself. There were several books I analysed and made notes on and then promptly sold. Minda (1953) was one of them, and sadly it made so little impression on me it didn't even make it into my book. It does carry on the theme of riding clubs, because heroine Minda Budge (who sounds as if she should make it into a Jill book on the strength of her name alone) joins a Pony Club started by three children. As we saw a couple of days ago, joining a club run by your peers can be tricky, and so it proves here. Another member of the club, Jill, is jealous of Minda's talents and schemes to keep her out of an event in which she will represent the club. I think you can probably work out the outcome for yourselves.

Minda is another book illustrated by Maurice Tulloch: not alas as successful an illustration as Ponies in Secret, but he has captured the girl and pony relationship pretty well.

In case you missed it when I posted it a few days ago, here's a modern day interpretation of just that thing.

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More on Kathleen Mackenzie