Orion, £4.99 each
Tilly's Pony Tails Annual 2011
The Tilly's Pony Tails website
Thank you to Orion for sending me these books.
I haven't read any of the Tilly's Pony Tails series since the first one, and the series has been growing apace since then, with 3 more titles due this year. The series is about heroine Tilly Redbrow, who "lives, breathes and dreams" horses. She has a special way of communicating with horses: she knows what they're feeling. The series is about Tilly's adventures with her own horse, Magic, and the horses who go through the Silver Shoes Stables.
The books aren't hugely strong on plot: the title Autumn Glory the New Horse does rather give away the fact that poor ponyless Mia does get a new horse, as does Goliath the Rescue Horse leave you in no doubt that the skewbald heavy horse found in an emaciated condition will be rescued. The plots' twists and turns are pretty well telegraphed. In Moonshadow, the Derby Winner, the girls are going to have a birthday sleepover at the stables, where a Derby winner has just arrived to stay to prevent him from being stolen. Tilly's mother, helping her pack for the sleepover, says:
"Really I don't know why you girls are so keen to sleep out in the stables during winter weather like this."
at which point I muttered to myself "it's for the plot, the PLOT!"
I have edited out what I then went on to mutter, as I realised I was sounding considerably more snippy about these books than I actually feel. Telegraphing your plot is not necessarily a bad thing for the younger reader at whom these books are aimed. For the newly confident reader, or the one who is still feeling their way into the world of reading, a well signposted plot is exactly what they need, and as a way for a pony mad child to learn to love reading, these books are ideal. Tilly's world is a reassuring one where friends are generally kind; adults generally in charge and entirely reasonable, and the horses have no intractable problems.
There is in each of these titles plenty of good, solid technical detail. Pippa is at her best when describing schooling and looking after ponies. It's then that the books really come alive. The insight into the way Pippa approaches her own horses is fascinating. I particularly enjoyed the (mostly) non fiction offering in this selection, the Tilly's Pony Tails Annual 2011. The mixture in this is rather more towards the practical. Pippa has a real gift for communicating how best to look after your pony without being patronising or over-simplistic.
I commented in my first review on the appearance of branded products in the books: Toggi get a look in in Moonshadow the Derby Winner, where Tilly has "her own Toggi gloves and woolly hat.". In mitigation, World Horse Welfare have an entire book (Goliath the Rescue Horse) and are badged on the back of each title.
I can't finish this review without a comment on the covers - thankfully a star and twinkle free zone, but whatever happened when they photoshopped Moonshadow's mane? I simply can't think what could have been wrong with the horse's own mane. Was it hogged? Either the replacement is very heavily gelled or someone has little grasp of elementary physics. Or perhaps local weather conditions meant the breeze was blowing through the horse's tail while leaving the mane strictly alone.