Wednesday, 19 February 2014

PBOTD: 19th February - Vian Smith, Martin Rides the Moor

Vian Smith is not the author to go to if you want comfortable and predictable pony adventure. His characters have difficult challenges to face. Today's pony book, Martin Rides the Moor has a hero who has gone deaf after an accident. His parents are worried about him, naturally enough, as he struggles to adapt to a new existence with only minimal sound. They buy him a Dartmoor pony, Tuppence, in the hope that giving him something to care for will help him.

Constable Young Books, 1964, 1st edition
At first, Martin wants nothing to do with the pony, and he remains closed in and determined in his resistance until he has to fight through the snow to rescue Tuppence. It isn't all plain sailing after that: Vian Smith has much more for his characters to go through, but the book is, ultimately, hopeful.

Doubleday, New York, 1965
Martin Rides the Moor was first published by Constable Young Books in 1964. I don't usually put American printings in the bibliographies in the PBOTDs, but I have here because the American edition is so much nicer than the English original. Vian Smith had much more critical and commercial success in America than he did in the UK. Perhaps it was the fact that his books were about horses, but still involved difficult themes that led to his lack of success in the UK. His books are not comfortable, girl-gets-pony, fiction, and not easy to pigeonhole. The horse book in America didn't suffer the same backlash from librarians that it did in the UK, which again perhaps helped this author's popularity. 

Constable, pb, 1974
Martin Rides the Moor, being about a younger child than Vian Smith's usual protagonists, and therefore easier to pigeonhole, was published more frequently. It had two paperback printings by Carousel in 1974 and 1981.

Constable, pb, 1981

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For more on Vian Smith and his books, see his page on my website.

4 comments:

Joanna Kenny said...

I remember reading and enjoying this, although I had nothing in common with the hero. I think I realised it was different to typical pony books. I think I must have bought it when a bookshop had a stall at my primary school (or there is no way I would have got this type of book). I remember asking for more of his books, but unfortunately my school had no interest in children reading outside of Ladybird Jane and Peter books, and my mum thought I had enough books, so I never read another Vian Smith. Years later I think I read Come Down the Mountain, although I don't remember the story beyond her taking on the racehorse.

janebadgerbooks said...

Come Down the Mountain is one of my favourite Vian Smiths. The heroine is older than Martin, which you probably remember! The person who inherits the racehorse turns up again at the end of the book, and wants to claim it, but it all works out in the end. I don't know if that brief summary will waken any memories - if you do want to read it it is one of those books that's pretty easy to find.

Joanna Kenny said...

Thanks for the brief summary. I will look out for a copy some time.

janebadgerbooks said...

That's alright. I am sorry for the brevity - it's a while since I've read it and there's a strong risk that if I'd expanded on what I'd said I'd have included plot points from other books!