Thursday, 12 June 2008

The peculiarities of child growth in Chatton

In life, ponies get outgrown. It was a great sadness in my life when I could no longer cram myself onto Dini, the Welsh pony I learned to ride on. In the pony book world, ponies get outgrown too: supply yourself with a large box of tissues and read Alyssa Brugman's latest, Greener Pastures.

I don't know why it's never dawned on me before, but Ruby Ferguson's Jill goes from the age of around 11 to 17 in the books, and she still seems to fit Black Boy and Rapide just as well in Pony Jobs for Jill as she did in Jill's Gymkhana. Here is a picture of Jill from Jill's Gymkhana:



and here she is in Rosettes for Jill, at least four years older, but still on Black Boy. The hair style's changed, and she's now got a figure, but she's no taller. Her legs are just where they always were on the pony.



Caney does do some very alarming things with scale in the books. When the characters are not on ponies, they shrink. The most alarming example is in Jill's Gymkhana, where Jill and Ann, supposed at the time to be at least eleven, look to be about the size of seven-year olds:



Jill's grown quite a bit taller in A Stable for Jill:



But once she's on a pony, she's a different girl. Maybe there's some of Alice's Drink Me bottles lurking somewhere? Jill's grown substantially in a few short days in the following picture from A Stable for Jill. Perhaps it's the influence of the pony that does it. Imagine the fun you could have with all those growth charts in your children's child health records. Have the child measured on the ground, and then straightaway on a pony. I shudder to think what the health visitor would have to say about all that wild zig-zagging on the graph.



Oh dear. Poor health visitor. Here is Jill in Pony Jobs for Jill, definitely grown up, but still fitting that pony.



Then I thought well, Ann does out grow Seraphine — or at least I presume so: she's just described as being handed down to Ann's little sister. I'm sure someone, somewhere, in the books, must be described as outgrowing a pony. Mustn't they?

I do wish, though that I had Jill's ability to grow or shrink depending on whether I was on the ground or on a horse. I am middle aged and nervous now, and I feel safer when I'm closer to the ground.

27 comments:

Juliet said...

V funny! The miniature 11-year-olds are especially alarming. But at least Jill did age realistically over time, even if it meant her pony had to keep on growing too! I don't think the Famous Five got *any* older over 20-odd stories, did they? And they had a strange anatomical problem all of their own, as well - a lack of 'joined up chins'. I was always perturbed by this as a child, especially in colour illustrations, where it looked as though the rosy pink of their faces might somehow flow through the gaps in their chins and stain their hand-knitted jumpers . . .

winnie said...

Perhaps Jill had expandable (and contractable) legs?

Gillian said...

I've a feeling that in one of the later books, Jill doesn't ride Black Boy as much, because she's too big for him. I haven't the slightest idea which book mentions this, and it doesn't seem to be consistent, but I think it's in there somewhere.

callmemadam said...

Ha, ha, not knowing what you do about horses, I'd never thought of that before. I think Tamzin has Cascade from the age of eleven and is still riding him at sixteen. Same with Rissa and Siani. This has never struck me as unlikely but I suppose it is? ISTR the ponies on Punchbowl Farm do get outgrown.

Gillian said...

I just checked 'Wish for a Pony' and Cascade is described as an Anglo-Arab of 14.2hh.

I do remember that in the next book, Tamsin has difficulties in vaulting onto him, as he's too high for her to manage, so I suspect she grows into him. She's fifteen in the last book, and may be a little too tall to look really right on him, but so long as he can carry her, she wouldn't want to swop him, even if her parents could afford another horse.
I'm not sure if Siani's height is mentioned, but she's a Thoroughbred/Exmoor cross, and appears quite leggy, so the same probably applies to Rissa

Anonymous said...

In 'Jill's Pony Trek' she says that Mrs Derry sold George when Ann outgrew him: but in 'Pony Jobs for Jill', Ann can still ride Black Boy, even though Jill was outgrowing him by the end of 'Jill's Gymkhana'.

Much of Monica Edward's 'Punchbowl Midnight' centres aroung Linsay outgrowing Sula.

Jane Badger said...

Juliet - you've intrigued me now. Off to the Blyton shelves....

Winnie. That's a point. Though looking at the picture of Black Boy on the cover of Jill's Gymkhana (the first one in the posts) his legs do seem very long, so maybe it was he who had to expandable legs?

Gillian - please let me know if you track it down!

CMM - like Gillian says, it depends on the height of the horse to start with. 14.2 is certainly a height a teenager could get on, and one that I, with long legs, can just about fit on.

Gillian - I've always thought that Siani, with that breeding, must be quite tall.

Anonymous - Sula being outgrown is awful. I'd forgotten that. I have a feeling that Ruby Ferguson wasn't actually a rider herself, which might be why the inconsistencies happen. Or perhaps they're just Fergusonisms? Or Caneyisms?

Vanessa said...

The strangely tiny 11 year olds always baffled me too.

As for the question of Jill not outgrowing Black Boy, Ruby wasn't a rider and so researched everything she needed to write the Jill books - perhaps those reference sources didn't mention the grown out of the pony issue?

Jane Badger said...

But she obviously knew about it as she did mention it - maybe she couldn't face the thought of making Jill sell off beloved Black Boy or Rapide! And I suppose all her readers blithely accepted it. I did myself (though I'd spotted the odd sizing in the illustrations) until I read Greener Pastures.

Birte said...

We also know that Jill grew since she gave her first riding outfit to Dinah in Jill Enjoys her Ponies!

Cati said...

Strange things happen in Chatton though: Anne) Derry changes the spelling of her name; Diana Bush's horse changes its name from Sylvia to Silvia on one page; and what happened to Ann's younger sister Brenda?

Birte said...

Yes I also wondered about what happend to Brenda, we know about Pam since she inherited Ann's pony Seraphine - but Brenda??
By the way I just looked through my old H&S copy of Jill Enjoys her Ponies and on page 107 is said (when Mrs. Derry was about the sell Seraphine because she had bucked Pam off at a jump) "At this Ann began to cry, as she was fond of Seraphine who had once been her pony when she was smaller, ......"
So Ann has grown too :-)

Jane Badger said...

Birte - yes, you're right. She must have grown in order to give the riding clothes away... and Cati I had completely forgotten about Anne's younger sister Brenda. In fact so completely is she wiped from my memory I can't remember what book she's mentioned in!

mutterings and meanderings said...

If memory serves me correctly, Anne's first pony was 13.3hh, but Black Boy was 14hh and Rapide was 14.2hh. (yes, I am a Jill geek)

In the real world, I was still riding my 14.1hh pony at 19, but I am not quite 5'4in.

So, it's quite viable that Jill - who was a skinny un - could be happy riding 14 and 14.2s in her late teens.

I sometimes ride a 14hh pony here!

mutterings and meanderings said...

Oh, and Chatton is just up the road from me. Nice pub there called the Percy Arms

http://communities.northumberland.gov.uk/Chatton.htm

Anonymous said...

Brenda Derry - the disappearing child - appears in Jill's Gymkhana, when Jill first goes ot tea with Anne and discivers that Anne has a pony. In A Stable For Jill, Brenda is alluded to - Jill writes to Ann (sic) 'I bet your sisters looked sweet on their Shetlands' - but after that Brenda is, presumably, abducted by aliens.
Yes, I'm another Jill nerd...
NB - this anonymous post is from Cati for some reason Google won't recognise my identity - sigh...

Anonymous said...

I seem to remember Ann Derry's hair colour and complexion changing too. I think in Jill's Gymkhana, she's described as having freckles and auburn curls, whereas later (I forget which book - the one where Jill taunts her for being Chatton's best-dressed child rider) she has blue eyes and fair hair.
The inconsistencies are part of the fun though - I think Ruby Ferguson is one of the best.

Jane Badger said...

Anon - thanks. I hadn't actually picked up on Ann Derry's changing appearance as well as Jill's zig-zagging growth! I expect it's because the Caney illustrations didn't differ hugely and that's what my mental picture was.

*~Mia~* said...

Jill made me wish for a pony to groom and school and take to gymkhanas. Ten years later, I'm still ponyless but without Jill I wouldn't be riding at all :D i love these books

nikoleka said...

I am now 47 and grew up on Jill books, I bought a set on ebay (all different publications)allegedly for my 10 year daughter. To my surprise and delight she is totally hooked, and now when we banter with each other we accuse each other of "sounding like Jill!"

Like a lot of young girls she has dreams of becoming an author and her pony stories are invariably in the style of Ruby Ferguson (ie Rapide's funny faces, his cat-like jumps etc) (She adores Black Boy and Rapide.)
Her teacher at school praises her work and loves her original style of writing! Poor woman, she obviously has never heard of Jill Crewe and therefore had a deprived childhood!

Karen said...

I have noticed a few other strange goings on in Chatton...
On the first page of 'Jill's Gymkhana' we are introduced to Jill as an eleven year old, but in the first chapter of 'Jill Enjoys Her Ponies' she says 'when I was a raw kid of ten and had just bought my first pony...'
Also at the start of 'Jill Enjoys her Ponies' she has a strained wrist and cannot groom her ponies one-handed. However she manages to wear her jodhpurs to visit the Doctor. Has anyone tried to put on jodhpurs one-handed? I can guarantee you will give up eventually.
In Jill Has Two Ponies' she buys Rapide, a 14.2hh pony, off seventeen year old Joan Penberthy... 'and when she was mounted her feet could have practically met round his girths...' Can anyone calculate how tall Joan was? I guess at least 8 feet.
In 'Jill's Gymkhana' Jill has to stay with the Lowes while her Mum goes into hospital for a few days. Jill feels sad at leaving their cottage shut up BUT...who is going to feed the hens???? Same problem throughout all of 'A Stable for Jill' when both Jill and Mum are away all summer. This wouldn't bother me so much but somewhere else she describes how impossible it is to find someone to feed the hens.
As you can see I probably need to get out more.

Jane Badger said...

Nikoleka - it's good though that the style is described as original. Perhaps it'll come back into fashion (and it would make a change from vampires!)

Karen - yes, I'd wondered what happened to the hens too. They are so much part of the first book, but although there, they're not nearly as central in later books. Maybe Mrs Crewe's increased income allowed her to employ Mrs Crosby to feed them!

Emma said...

mutterings and meanderings said...
If memory serves me correctly, Anne's first pony was 13.3hh, but Black Boy was 14hh and Rapide was 14.2hh. (yes, I am a Jill geek)

In the real world, I was still riding my 14.1hh pony at 19, but I am not quite 5'4in.

So, it's quite viable that Jill - who was a skinny un - could be happy riding 14 and 14.2s in her late teens.

I sometimes ride a 14hh pony here!


You've got it spot on, I'm 24 now, and pretty slight (7.5 stone). I think it's perfectly possible for Jill to have kept riding Black Boy, although he would look a little small. I ride my 14.3hh Welsh Cob, and my sister (who's the same size as me) happily rides her 13.2hh pony without looking too big.

Alice :) said...

Lol!
very strange...!
I'm 15 (and horse mad!) and I read 'a stable for Jill' last week when I came across it at my granny's house. I don't know what age it's aimed at but it took me about 3 hours to read and i must say i could not put it down! It had a good plot, and made me laugh. The story was like a dream come true- 4 children setting up a hacking stables by themselves! I love old fashioned horse books like that, I have also read 'the pony club cup' and the following 2 books of that series. I think I'm going to get the other Jill books...

Jane Badger said...

Alice... enjoy! Lucky you having them all to come. There's 9 in the series altogether, and they're all pretty easy to get in paperback. Fidra Books have just published the first one, Jill's Gymkhana, and it's well worth getting as it has the full original text and illustrations, which the later paperbacks you're more likely to find don't.

Christina Wilsdon said...

Oh, this was too marvelous. I remember reading the books as a kid for the first time and noticing the inconsistencies but I guess as the books are so wonderful one was totally willing to suspend disbelief. Perhaps Jill's ponies were the ones doing the shape-shifting. Maybe they were really all taller and had been taught to duck down when a measuring device touched their withers so they'd fit in the pony classes. I think that happens in a James Herriott book...

Jane Badger said...

Oh yes - I remember the James Herriott incident! I think he starts off all starry-eyed about the wonders of the local show, but is followed round by an elderly gnome-like figure who dishes the dirt on everybody. I always remember the pony ducking episode whenever there is another fuss amongst the show pony fraternity about over height ponies.