Review: Linda Newbery - Barney the Boat Dog. And the log jam effect

Linda Newbery - Barney the Boat Dog
Usborne, £4.99

Linda Newbery's website

Thank you to Usborne for sending me a copy of this book.

I 'll get the log jam stuff out of the way first:  this is nothing to do with the Linda Newbery book.  I don't know if other people experience this, but every now and then I get asked to do something that I find tremendously difficult.  The thing in question was to read a self-published book.  I very soon ground to a halt with this book, because it was absolutely not my sort of thing.  The book then sat there like a toad on the review shelf, glaring at me, whilst all around it other books to be reviewed piled up.  I do like to review stuff as it comes in, rather than do the short stuff first (for obvious reasons), or the stuff I like (for further obvious reasons).  Although you might not believe it, I try and apply some sort of a system to life.

So, there I was, every now and then casting sideways glances at the toad book, and then busily getting on with something else.  And I do have an awful lot of something elses to be getting on with, and virtually all of them are perfectly legitimate things.   I would pick the toad book up and take it with me to read elsewhere, but even then, managed not to.  It still sat there, unread, glowering.  That book knew I was a moral lightweight, someone who was making excuses; someone who was prevaricating for all she was worth.  I moved the book to the kitchen.  Then the sitting room.  Then next to the bed.  It moved to the office (several times).  It remained unread.

Finally, FINALLY, I have read it, and oh the relief!  The blessed relief!  All I have to do now is marshal my comments into something tactful and that will be that.  I can now read other stuff, and I have, hence this review.  Coming up later this week will be the last two episodes of Janet Rising's Pony Whisperer series.  And I've also read all the Charles Keeping pony books I can find. And had a gallop through a 1930s edition of Black Beauty.  Mind you, bearing in mind what my weeks are like, I am probably making myself a hostage to fortune here and will not achieve any of these reviews/pieces, but at least I feel there is hope.

So, Linda Newbery.  She is an author about whom I ought to know very much more than I do, and I must plunder my son's shelves for some of her other titles (not an easy task as he is his mother's son and books which are double parked in his shelves are the lucky ones).  Barney the Boat Dog is a new series she's writing for Usborne Books.  It's aimed at a newly confident reader.  Barney lives on a narrowboat.  Jim, Barney's owner, is retired, and the two travel the country on the boat (as far as they can, I suppose, the canal network not covering the whole country, but I digress).  Runaway Horse is the second book in the series.  Jim has made his grandson Freddie a model of the narrowboat as a birthday present, and they are on their way to deliver it to him.  Unfortunately, the boat's engine breaks down.  A birthday being an unmoveable deadline, they have a problem.  Barney has earlier met a horse living next to the canal, and puts two and two together.  The horse, fortunately, is trained to pull a narrowboat, and his owner lends him to Jim.  Jim, however, has not been trained to do anything very much with a horse, and this soon leads to problems.

This is a thoroughly enjoyable read.  My only minor quibble in what is a realistic book is Barney putting two and two together and thinking that the horse presents the answer to their problems.  This doesn't ring entirely true, but the plot had to get there somehow, and Barney is still a dog-like enough dog for you to forgive this spectacular example of canine brainpower.   Linda Newbery gets the horse, Puzzle, well however, and the alarums and excursions caused by Jim's complete lack of horse sense are economically and amusingly described.


Linda Newbery said…
Thanks very much for this. I wonder if you might like to try THE DAMAGE DONE, a young adult novel? Though not a horse-dominated book, horses are certainly a major ingredient. It's out of print now (sadly), but had good reviews when it came out, and I live in hope that someone might one day reissue it ...

Best wishes,
Linda Newbery
Jane Badger said…
I'd love to - thank you very much!
Linda Newbery said…
Jane, if you email me through my website ( and give me your snail address, I will put a copy in the post. I enjoy your website! BLACK BEAUTY (considerably abridged) is the first book I can remember reading, and crying over, as a child.

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