Review: Susannah Leigh - Strangers at the Stables

Susannah Leigh – Sandy Lane Stables – Strangers at the Stables
Usborne Books, 2009 : £4.99
Age 10+ (or thereabouts)

This book was originally published in 1996, but it’s been republished a couple of times since then and is still going strong. The latest reprint came out this year.

The latest cover re-design is of the twinkle-twinkle-fairydust school. Goodness alone knows why. There’s nothing remotely fantastical about the story, so presumably this latest effort is to make the books appear fashionable and “new”. I don’t dislike the cover particularly (I love the grey Arab in fact) but I wonder if it wouldn’t confuse its public a bit: this is a straight down the line pony story and there’s not even the merest hint of a mysteriously fading sparkly hoofprint anywhere.

The Sandy Lane Stables series is one I’ve been aware of for years, but which I’ve managed to avoid reading, assuming from the various cover designs that I wasn’t going to enjoy it. Well, I was wrong. I haven’t read the whole series, but I liked this later example from it. Rosie, stalwart teenage helper at Sandy Lane Stables is the book’s heroine. The stable’s owners have to go to America for three weeks, leaving their new groom, Becky, in charge, but when she breaks her leg in an accident, guess what! The children are left in charge. However, the author thankfully took note of the fact that times have changed since fictional riding stables would be left in the hands of eleven year olds for weeks at a time and the stables only has a couple of days being run by the children until Sam and Vanessa turn up to run it. Sam and Vanessa are not what they seem, however, but the only one who can see they’re iffy is Rosie.

I liked the plot: it twists and turns, and kept me interested, though I couldn’t help but wonder how likely it was Sam and Vanessa would have been able to leave their other life not so very far away and no one would actually have spotted. The characters emerge, pretty much, as separate individuals, as do the ponies. The book is a good, fun read, and probably one of the nearest things you’re going to get to a traditional pony story for this age group at the moment.


haffyfan said…
OMG that sparkly cover is awful. The originals were normal, the reprints funkier but normal so why on earth did they go pink and sparkly!
I guess it shows what sells.
My sister was bought the first 5 inthis series when they were first published and I loved them. They have a real traditional feel about them instead of some of the 'airy fairy' nonsense that is about!
Jane Badger said…
Yes, they are really traditional in feel, but obviously still selling well, thank goodness! It's a pity they felt they had to change the covers, but presumably that style is what sells at the moment. As I said in the review, it's a bit tough if you've bought it expecting twinkly fairy lights, because you're not going to get them!
Shantih said…
What sort of age to you think they are aimed at (apart from us pony-book-reading-adults, that is!)
Jane Badger said…
Sorry! 10 plus, I'd guess, though a bit younger if you have a confident reader.

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