|Blackie, first edition, 1953, illus Peter Biegel|
And that was that, for decades, until I asked on an internet forum (possibly my own) if anyone had heard of a book where a family moved next door to a stables, and at the end the mother met her long lost father. As I've found is often the case, I'd conflated two stories (Judith M Berrisford's The Ponies Next Door was the other) but the great American collector Fran Fignar put me out of my misery. She thought The Ten Pound Pony was probably the book I was after. I found a copy, and it was. The joy of reading it again. And the tears. I was coming to the end of it when we had the electrician in to rewire a large chunk of the house. It came as something of a surprise to him when he came in to the kitchen to ask me some vital question on socket location, to find me leaning against the Aga, sobbing, having reached the end of the book. "It's the book," I gasped. "The book." Because the ending of this book does make me weep, absolutely every time. I guess it is because my own father died when I was small, so the ending of this one, in which the lost are found, and the family reunited, chimes in all sorts of ways with me.
Although the ending reduces me to helpless tears, every time, it isn't the same for the heroine of the book, Jessica. She remarks, tartly, on the effects of her grandfather's temper:
"It appeared to worry him that Martin was too old now to 'get in anywhere decent - I suppose meaning the Public School where he himself used to go. I heard him regretting that Martin's name hadn't been put down for it when he was born, and I couldn't help thinking privately to myself that if his wonderful school had taught him to control his own temper there would have been a chance of Martin going to it."
|Blackie reprint, 1967, cover Harry Green|
"Owninig inanimate objects like books and bicycles was one thing - owning something that ate and breathed and depended on on us for happiness and the continuance of life itself was quite different, and we felt almost afraid as we smoothed her rough coat and tried to finger the mud off it..."If you haven't read this book, do. Let me know if you love it as much as me.
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The Ten Pound Pony was originally published by Blackie in 1953, with a lovely cover illustration by Peter Biegel. It is noticeable, if you look at the illustrations closely, that Peter Biegel hadn't read the book that closely. A lot of it is concerned with the fact that the children don't have a saddle, but the pony's shown, saddle and all, quite clearly, in one illustration. Blackie reprinted the book when they produced a whole slew of their titles in the 1960s with replacement covers by Harry Green. He produced a rather generic, girl-loves-pony, illustration, but had at least read the book as he does show the New Forest ponies cantering by in the distance. Sadly, there have been no reprints of The Ten Pound Pony since.
For more on the author, she has a page on my website.