Friday, 14 September 2007

The worst pony book ever?

I was inspired by reading this post on another blog, as I have a few candidates of my own for this. It's quite rare that I fail to finish a book, but I did with Joan Dicken's Jill and Prince the Pony, which is real grade A stinker. I doubt even as a pony-mad child if I could have struggled through the waves of boredom which the pedestrian plot and characterisation roused in me, but as an adult I just couldn't. I failed.

Others I struggle with are Judith M Berrisford's A Pony in the Family series. This is supposed to be an educational series, teaching children how to look after ponies and ride. The educational bits are triggered when the hapless younger sister gets something wrong, which is when her hideously sanctimonious elder sister sails in and patronises her until any realistically written character would have shoved the elder girl face first into the muck heap and made sure she stayed there for a while. But no, she takes it all. The whole think makes me gnash my teeth in frustration that I cannot be the one to issue retribution.

There are other books I don't particularly like (the Silver Brumby books after Silver Brumby Kingdom, the Three Jays, J M Berrisford's Jackies) but the ones above are the ones that really get me venting.

11 comments:

haffyfan said...

I actually like the 'In the Family' series they had a certain charm and the idea was different. I also liked the Jackie books although they are certainly not the best out there, the later Jackie's are a little better (missing show jumper, steeplechase adventure, change ponies). I totally agree with you re 3 Jays, more books I couldn't get into and I struggled with Elyne Mitchell as a child but the newer Brumby books are lovely and The Man From Snowy River is fantastic. I guess I grew into them?

pullein-thompson-archive said...

The ones I could not get into was Patricia Leitch's Jinny series.

Other ones that I did not like were the Saddle Club series (these got sold in the car boot sale pretty darn quick).

Recently, I tried Jean Slaughter Doty's books, it may have been the one that I chose, but I could not get into that either.

I actually like the Jackie series, in fact I am reading them right now. But there is something missing I feel from them. I do have the "In the Family series", but have not read them (I fell in love with a first edition of the "A Showjumper in the Family).

As for Pat Smythe's 3 Jays series, I find them not that bad, but granted I have only read Jacqueline Rides For a Fall and Three Jays Go to Town. I do feel that writing (in a fictional sense) is not Pat Smythe's best use of her talents, I enjoy the autobiographies more. I admire her more as a showjumper than an author.

callmemadam said...

I sold all my Three Jays books when I realised I was only keeping them for the gorgeous dustwrappers. I don't read modern pony books. My all time favourite is not the best: it's The Ten Pound Pony by Veronica Westlake. I read this as a child and was very glad to find a cheap copy a few years ago.

mutterings and meanderings said...

I liked the Jackie books too - but I haven't re-read them as an adult.

The Heartland series has me reaching for the sick bucket.

There was another one about a girl who wnated to be an eventer and was taught by a man in a wheelchair (Jill rip-off...) Any ideas what that was? I was not impressed.

Susan in Boston said...

The Jackie books left me cold for the same reason the Susan books by Jane Shaw irritated me....the young protagonists are treated by the adults in their lives as though they were both habitual liars and completely incompetant....it's so persistant through the series that it borders on child abuse. (I loved Ponies Next Door by the same author, which had a completely different tone)

The Jinny books lost me at Summer Riders....Jinny is a selfish kid, but unfortunately has a point...nobody sane or responsible would put a novice, let alone a handicaped novice, on a barely broken young horse....it's an invitation to disaster.

The Pat Smythe books...ok, they're not compelling reads, but....oh, that cover art!

Jane said...

I thought as I was writing this that I would be bound to be treading on someone's toes.... sorry haffyfan!

pta - I really like Jean Slaughter Doty. I have her Winter Pony (and I think Summer Pony as well as a couple of others). She's one of the best American writers, as far as I'm concerned. I haven't read "Can I Get There By Candlelight" which I think is the only one published over here. Maybe it's not as good!

callmemadam - I love Ten Pound Pony too...

m&m - I am intrigued now. The book you describe with the eventer and the chap in the wheelchair does sound familiar, but I can't think what it is... darn.

Susan - I do entirely agree with you about Jackie (and Ponies Next Door, which I loved too). I don't particularly like JMB's style either: tagging "pony" onto everything makes my teeth grate.

The Jinny books I'm ambivalent about. I don't terribly mind the fact she's a flawed character. I like her passion, I love the horse: I can't quite put my finger on what it is I don't like. Needs some thinking about.

haffyfan said...

No worries the ponies are much heavier! We all have books we like and dislike, i just happened to have read a terrible one at that point, didn't realise anyone had read my 'wafflings' actually so secretly chuffed.

I love Jean Slaughter Doty, I would recommend Can I Get Here by Candlelight but might be an aquired taste as not a traditional pony story.

Is the eventer and chap in the wheelchair Samantha Alexander's Riders series? Not bad for modern pony books but give me the Pullein-Thompsons and Caroline Akrill any day.

Susan in Boston said...

Jane,

Re Jinny...I didn't mind that she was flawed either....very committed people, especially when young, can have tunnel vision and not be aware of the effect they're having on others...that bit seemed real. It was that it was viewed as a GOOD thing that she put the disabled girl up on the half broken horse...that's just BAD horsemanship, which is for me the cardinal sin in a horse book!

On Berrisford...have you read Timber? I keep eyeing it, but it's so expensive and I've been wondering if it's more like Ponies Next Door or more like the Jackie books.

On the score of worse pony book ever....I don't know if it would truely be considered a pony book, but Steinbeck's The Red Pony has to be my all time horror...bad enough the pony has to die, but to be EATEN....in front of the boy!!!

tim relf said...

Jane,
It's always thoroughly depressing when you decide to give up on a book before finishing it, isn't it. That said, I'm not one of these people who religiously believes in persevering if you're not enjoying a book. Life's too short.
Susan in Boston - how can say anything bad about Steinbeck, wash your mouth out immediately!
Tim

Susan in Boston said...

tim relf

How can I say something bad about Steinbeck...it's easy...I don't care HOW well something is written when the pony is EATEN in the end!!! (It's not without reason that it's the easiest to find, not to mention cheapest, Steinbeck 1st edition).

Jane said...

I find The Red Pony incredibly hard going: I can appreciate how wonderful the writing is, but it's the most draining book to read. The poor boy's experience is so relentless.