Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Peter Clover: The Sheltie Books

Sheltie Leads the Way
Penguin
(not in print but easily available on Amazon)
and
Sheltie Finds a Friend
Penguin
(not in print but easily available on Amazon)

Peter Clover's website
There is very little out there for the very young pony fan starting to read for themselves. The Sheltie books are then a very rare animal: not only are they aimed at the younger reader; there’s more than one. Quite a lot more than one in fact: the series now numbers 24 (though not all by any means are still in print).

The series fulfils one of the key requirements for a young reader: it is set in a constant and easily understandable framework. Emma owns Sheltie, a Shetland pony. She lives with her younger brother Joshua, and her Mum and Dad. And they have adventures. And that is pretty much it: but Peter Clover has created a good and believable world. Unlike the Lauren Brooke ponies in Chestnut Hill, Sheltie is created with the right amount of credible detail. In the opening of Sheltie Finds a Friend , he and Emma are described as playing frisbee. Bearing in mind this was the first Sheltie I’d read, my initial reaction was “WAAA! Where did reality go?” However, Sheltie is not tossing the frisbee backwards and forwards: “Sheltie bent his head and picked up the frisbee between his teeth. Then, with a sudden flick, he tossed the plastic saucer in the air.” Which I can entirely see a pony doing.




I do have a quibble with Sheltie’s portrayal: he is always described as fat, which instantly made me think “LAMINITIS!” but this is never mentioned. [For my non equine readers: Laminitis is a particularly nasty equine affliction affecting the feet. As hooves are solid, there is nowhere for the swelling to go. The pain is excruciating, and avoiding the condition is an important part of equine management. The overweight are far more likely to suffer.] In an ideal world, although being described as fat presumably makes Sheltie appealing (and most Shetlands do tend to be rotund), his size wouldn’t be mentioned. I don’t think the youngest reader necessarily needs to have the horrors of a laminitic pony paraded in front of them, but parents whose ponies tend to be laminitic might feel the need to do a little explaining.

Emma, Sheltie’s owner, is a brave and resourceful child who has proper adventures. In Sheltie Leads the Way, Emma and Sheltie and her friends manage to get a pony part way out of a bog. In both the books I read, adult help is needed at the end to resolve the plot, but this isn’t intrusive, or hard to believe. A child can quite easily believe he could do the things that Emma does, but there is always the comfort of an adult presence, not too far away.



These are cosy, comfortable books (not, as the publisher says, the first such series aimed at the younger reader: the American C W Anderson’s Billy and Blaze predates it by quite a long way.) They have the predictability the young reader needs, but have enough to them not to make you run screaming if you have to do one as a bedtime story. Unless, of course, it is the 90th time you have read it, in which case pretty much anything would be enough.

6 comments:

Val said...

Youngest Daughter is now to be seen wandering around with a Sheltie paperback clutched in her hand, time will tell if she takes to it ... Many Thanks for the recommend Val

Jane Badger said...

Val - I hope she likes it! Do let me know if the book progresses from hand to brain.

Jay said...

hi i'm now 17 and i have just found some of my old sheltie books from along time ago and i still absolutly love them i am now looking for the rest to complete my search so any help on wher to find them would be much appreciated thanx

Jane Badger said...

Thanks Jay. I have plenty in stock (you can email me at enquiries at janebadgerbooks dot co dot uk) or you can try ebay.

Nici said...

My 5 year old daughter loves the Sheltie books, and identifies 100% with Emma - we have two Shetland ponies (not too fat!) of our own. It has become a nightly ritual for me to read a chapter or two of Sheltie every night. We have managed to collect all the books and are on our second time through them. Fortunately they are well written, so I still enjoy them too!

Jane Badger said...

Hi Nici - we used to have two Shetlands here, but they were demons and not at all like Sheltie. I hope yours are in the Sheltie mould. It makes such a difference to read a book to your child that you actually enjoy too. If I had to read another Thomas the Tank book I think I would come out in hives.