Wednesday, 8 January 2014

PBOTD: January 8th, Gillian Baxter: Jump to the Stars

Today's book is one of Gillian Baxter's earliest books - not her first, which was Horses and Heather (1956), one of those stories in which children have to take over a riding school. Horses and Heather was published when Gillian was 15, and Jump to the Stars (1957) appeared a little later. Gillan wrote about what she knew: her heroines, like her, are mostly girls in their late teenage years. Perhaps because of this, she doesn't write the conventional girl-gets-pony book, but stories in which girls work for their living, and their ponies. The girl sometimes does get the pony, but that isn't the point of the story. Bobby, heroine of Jump to the Stars, is nearing the end of her school career, and the series covers the transition between school and work. 

Jump to the Stars sees our heroine riding a mare called Shelta, which she doesn't actually own, and it's this that causes problems later in the story. When the book opens, Bobby is being packed off with her cousin Ellen to boarding school. Bobby lives with Ellen and her family. Her uncle is a fairly reasonable human being, but her aunt Helen is anything but.

First edition, Evans
Bobby does settle in at school, but finds the riding school attached to it hopelessly restricting and dull. She investigates and finds a stables with rather more to it, owned by Guy Mathews. There she also finds Shelta, whom Bobby starts to showjump. All goes wrong when Aunt Helen decides she is going to buy Shelta: purely to show off. She has no real love for horses, or empathy either. When Shelta does not go well for her, Helen beats her. It's a heartbreaking situation for Bobby. As you'd expect, things do eventually work out, and Bobby and Shelta carry on through another two books about the stables, Difficult Summer (1959) and The Perfect Horse (1963). 

I didn't read the books myself until this century. I knew they existed, because I had other pony books which mentioned them, but, tantalisingly, they never appeared in any of our local bookshops. The Dragon edition below, with its Mary Gernat cover, is that edition. 

Dragon books edition, cover Mary Gernat, 1967
There was one final edition, with a newly commissioned cover illustration.

Dragon books edition, 1978

You can read more about the author and her books here, including an interview I did with her.

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