Saturday, 22 March 2014

PBOTD 22nd March, Judith M Berrisford - Ten Ponies and Jackie

It's hard to track down biographical information on Judith M Berrisford, and there's a very good reason for that. Judith M Berrisford was a joint name used by writers Clifford and Mary Lewis, writers of animal books for children. It is, I assume, Mary Lewis who is pictured as Judith M Berrisford on the jackets of the books.

It took me a while to find this out, but it was one of those satisfying detective journeys to which there actually is an answer. Contemporary Authors gave the author's birth year as 1912, so I set off to see what I could find out about her, particularly as the dustjacket of one of the author's gardening books gave a completely different birth year: 1921. I couldn't find any record of a birth in 1912 under the name Judith M Berrisford, but did find a Clifford Lewis who was born in Staffordshire in 1912. He married a Mary Berrisford, who was born in 1921, in 1945. It was Adrian Room's Dictionary of Pseudonyms which confirmed that Judith M Berrisford was a pseudonym. 

Brockhampton Press first edition,1959
It would be interesting to speculate on how the dynamics of the writing partnership worked: who wrote what, and whose ideas permeate the books, but it's one of those tantalising questions that will have to remain hanging for the moment. 

Judith M Berrisford's Ten Ponies and Jackie, today's PBOTD, is the second in the Jackie series. It establishes several things that were to become central features of the series. Jackie and Babs are absent from their parents, but are at a pony-filled venue, which is having problems. Jackie and Babs long to help, dash in with plans and action, and create as many problems as they solve. All is, at the end sorted out. There's little chance for children to take any truly independent action.

Armada paperback, 1972
In Ten Ponies and Jackie, a young boy, Terry, has taken over a riding stable. Jackie and Babs pile in to help him, with sometimes catastrophic results. The book ends with a sensible adult taking over the stables, and Terry being relegated (though he seems entirely happy about this) to a helper.

Armada paperback, late 1970s
In the Jackie books, youthful enthusiasm almost always goes wrong. Time after time, in book after book, Jackie and Babs long to help. They try their absolute hardest, but somehow it always goes wrong. In a series whose message seems to be that adults know best, one does wonder how these adults reached their position of superiour knowledge and wisdom if they grew up as Jackie and Babs do in the books: never learning from their mistakes, but endlessly agonising over their faults.

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Ten Ponies and Jackie was first published by the Brockhampton Press in 1959. The next edition was a paperback with a pictorial cover published by Armada in 1972. There was a later photographic edition, probably from the late 1970s.

For much more on the author, see her page on my website.



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