Friday, 12 December 2008

Christmas Recommendations

I'm sure that unlike me, you have already sorted out all your Christmas presents. I never have by this point of the year. I think though that I perform a useful social service, as everyone who asks me (and there are a lot of them) "Are you ready for Christmas yet?" can feel smug/superior/relieved/worried on my behalf/thankful they are not me. I'm sort of like the slovens in How Clean is Your House? However bad you are, you're not as bad as me.

Anyway, here is a quick round up of horse and pony books that I'd recommend for Christmas: all in print. There are other pony books I've enjoyed over the year, but these are the best of the best. The American author Jessie Haas had some wonderful books; not only are they beautifully written, they also come as hardbacks, with dustjackets, so make a rather more permanent gift than paperbacks. It's almost impossible now to find a British pony book which appears in hardback, so grab this:

The Jigsaw Pony
Aimed at newly confident readers. The Jigsaw Pony is the story of twins completely unable to agree on anything; and they carry right on disagreeing when they get a pony. It's a story with great charm, and beautifully observed.



With covers that will appeal to the younger reader at whom they're aimed, though not certainly to this parent, are Diana Kimpton's Pony Mad Princess series. This has the advantage of being a long series, so if your young like it there's plenty there to go for, but the thing that sold it to me is the humour. Princess Ellie is a determinedly unsparkly princess and the books are good stories; well told; without a hint of fantasy, and were I still at the bedtime reading stage, I'd head for these.



For the youngest readers, Jessie Haas has Sugaring, Appaloosa Zebra and Scamper and the Horse Show. All of these are again, hardbacks with dustjackets. Sugaring is a lovely one for winter: it has marvellous pictures of the horses in the snow collecting the maple syrup, and is a lovely gentle read to enjoy together. Appaloosa Zebra and Scamper both have plenty of pony content and are wonderfully observed. There's not a lot of competition out there for books for the young equine reader, but there doesn't really need to be with books as good as these.







For older readers (including teenagers though not alas my own horse-averse pair) there's Michael Morpurgo's War Horse and K M Peyton's Blind Beauty. War Horse is a marvellous evocation of the tragedy of war as seen through a horse's eyes. It is one of the best equine portraits I've read, and although it does not shy away from the tragedy of war, it is ultimately an uplifting read. Blind Beauty's heroine, Tessa, is not an easy character, but she is one of K M Peyton's best. K M Peyton succeeds in making you root entirely for Tessa, even when she produces acts of quite staggering rebellion. Tessa, at the start of the book, is vile, but there is just a little something there; a spark of fire, that makes you want her to succeed. Tessa's all-encompassing love for Buffoon, her horse: the one thing she has left to remind her of her feckless father, and her struggles against the storms that assail her, are entirely believable.




For younger teenage readers, and older primary, there is the wonderful, though alas hard to find here, Alyssa Brugman. Her books are obtainable only from Australia, and postage from the Aussie book sites to here is not cheap, but they are the best pony books for that age I've read in a long while. Shelby's ups and downs with her pony Blue explore what it is like to be a girl struggling with not enough money and the problems of teenagerdom.

Obtainable here, and a good traditional pony book read, is Victoria Eveleigh's Katy's Exmoor. No sparkles, fantasy or celebrity here: but a solid story with a thoroughly believable family, set on Exmoor, and featuring, of course, Exmoors.

There are, of course, books I wouldn't recommend that you put in your beloved's Christmas stocking. For lazy writing, avoid Jenny Oldfield's Magical Pony series; for being just not that good; Katie Price's, and for a not very successful attempt to mix shopping, school and ponies, Chestnut Hill.

Victoria Eveleigh:
Katy's Exmoor: £4.50
Jessie Haas:
Sugaring: £9.89
Jigsaw Pony: £8.15
Appaloosa Zebra: £9.89
Scamper and the Horse Show: £8.17
Diana Kimpton:
Princess Ellie to the Rescue: £3.59
Michael Morpurgo:
The War Horse £3.84
K M Peyton:
Blind Beauty: £4.49

5 comments:

Juxtabook said...

Very useful - thank you. Especially the 'what to avoid' list - I wish more people would do that when making receommendations. With kids books, especially one's aimed at girls I think, it is really hard to judge from a bookshop flick-thru. Even good books can have silly covers, and the silly books don't always announce themselves properly!

Jane Badger said...

Thanks Juxtabook. It's true - covers don't always tell the whole story, alas.

Juxtabook said...

I can use apostrophes - honestly! Sometimes I think I marked apostrophe riddled work so long that my mind eeds to put then in anywhere and everywhere now.

Susan in Boston said...

Don't forget The Perfect Distance by Kim Ablon Whitney.....another great read still available in hardcover!

Jane Badger said...

Juxtabook - I do know what you mean. When I used to edit other people's stuff, I sometimes used to get so goggled by wild apostrophising I would have to go back to my textbooks to reassure myself that I did know how to use them!

Susan - good point. I am going to do a proper review of her in the New Year (my to be read pile is not good, but my to be reviewed pile is even worse!)