Saturday, 15 March 2014

PBOTD 15th March: Christine Stewart & Julie Yager - Six Horses and a Caravan

I was lucky enough to buy this book in the last consignment of books I bought in my bookselling career. They'd come over from New Zealand, inch by painful inch in a ship which seemed to take for ever. When I was closing up the business, I saved this one from the boxes due to be sold on, because I was intrigued by the fact the book was written by two teenage girls, and besides, who can resist a title like Six Horses and a Caravan?  It has an Australian expansiveness missing in English pony books, where the aim is to have one pony, if you're lucky.

The book's heroines, Joanne and Diane Kennedy, have finished school. Their parents want to travel Europe for a year, but the twins aren't so keen. What they want to do is buy a large horsebox, fill it with horses, and do the Australian show circuit for a year.

Ure Smith, Sydney, 1964,illus Roseanne Fuller
So that's what they do. The book's a fairly conventional read at first: the girls find and buy six horses, do a bit of schooling, and attend a few shows. After the first couple, I flicked to the end to see how many pages I had left to go, because although I was enjoying the book, descriptions of shows and where you came tend to lose their thrill after the first one or two, and this book had a whole year's worth to fill.

No sooner had I flicked back to the story than the authors flung me into a maelstrom. They have an accident, the lorry is wrecked, and all the horses are injured; their favourite mortally. Fortunately help is at hand from the nearest farm, and the girls and their surviving horses are taken in by the vet's family, and the book's focus shifts to the relationships between the girls and the family. There is still plenty of horse, and the book's an accomplished work, particularly from two teenagers. It's tightly plotted, and it doesn't tamely follow pony book conventions. If you can find a copy (it was never published in the UK), it's well worth reading.

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Six Horses and a Caravan was published by Ure Smith in Sydney in 1964. I have found some evidence of a 1965 printing, but nothing after that.

For more on the authors, they have a page on my website.

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