Tuesday, 18 February 2014

PBOTD: 18th February - Kathleen Mackenzie, Jumping Jan

Kathleen Mackenzie was part of the explosion of pony books which happened in the 1950s, but when you read her books, you can't help but feel her heart was elsewhere. Like Mary Gervaise, she preferred families and what happened within them to long and loving descriptions of pony care and gymkhanas.

Jumping Jan is one of her most pony-orientated books, and even here, the focus is really on the family heroine Jan is going to work for. It's not the horses that you remember after reading this book, but the family, who are splendidly vile. They are dominated by the mother, Mrs Jervis, a great beauty and a minor actress, who has married well. She no longer acts, but prefers to devote herself to creating emotional storms in the family. Mr Jervis stays well out of the way, but their children are not so lucky. The son is a liar and a cheat, who tries to pass someone else's play off as his own, and the youngest son is prone to hysteria. Eldest daughter Ellie has her own ambitions, and this she expresses in a frankly odd episode. After coming across an injured mother and baby, once the mother's been packed off to hospital, Ellie smuggles the baby back into the house and looks after it.

Jan of course, with her straightforward and sensible approach to life, is just what this family needs. Mrs Jervis' dramatics will probably never stop, but Jan leaves the rest of the family in a rather better state than when she found them. The family and their dramatics rather swamp the horse element: in fact the cover is probably the most thoroughly horsey thing about it.

The cover illustration is by Maurice Tulloch, though he didn't do the internal illustrations. They were done by Violet Morgan, who illustrated most of Kathleen Mackenzie's books (and was in fact her sister). Jumping Jan was published by Evans in 1955, and reprinted in 1960 with the same cover. It never appeared in paperback. 



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For more on Kathleen Mackenzie, she has a page on my website.
If you're interested in the illustrators, you can find more on Maurice Tulloch and Violet Morgan on my website.

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