Thursday, 3 April 2014

PBOTD: 3rd April - FK Brown: The Last Hurdle

Today's pony book is an American horse story. FK Brown's heroine, Kathy, has done that moving to the country thing that so many British heroines do. Like them, she's horse-mad. Like them, she doesn't have a horse. What she does have is boundless determination, and a helper in the form of Willie, their hired man, who's even more of a dreamer than Kathy. Kathy's parents don't have much spare money, and there's no hope of a horse by the conventional route. When Willie tells Kathy about a broken down horse, ill treated by its owner, that he thinks Kathy could get for 20 dollars, she's all fired up. She buys the horse, and dreams that he'll turn into the splendid creature Willie says is underneath the bony scruffiness.

Crowell, New York, 1953 1st edition
It takes a while, this realisation of the dream, and Kathy's beloved horse is the butt of her schoolfriends' jokes. Her younger brother, Neddie, a brilliant creation, believes in her. And it turns out Baldy, the horse, can jump.  Here's the scene where Kathy tries Baldy over a jump that's a decent height (they built it first - it took them days):

"The bar was still there! They'd made it! She could see Ned jumping up and down, waving his arms, and shouting something.
She trotted Baldy back toward him, a wave of exhilaration turning her hot and cold in turn.
"Hey! Hey!" Ned was shrieking. "You should've seen him! You should've seen him!"
Kathy dismounted. She was shaking so violently she could hardly stand. "How high did he go?" she demanded.
"Gee whiz, you should've seen him," Ned screamed, all but incoherent with excitement."

Reprint, Peter Spier
I think that's my favourite bit of the whole book - even more than the ending, where Kathy finally proves just what a horse she has. I love that wild enthusiasm. It's brilliantly done. The book's not impossible to get in the UK - the hardback illustrated above seems to be available via the usual sources. If you can get hold of a copy, do. It's a brilliant portrayal of determination and enthusiasm.

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For more on the author, see the piece Christina Wilsdon wrote on my website.

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