Showing posts from May, 2013

Review: Victoria Eveleigh: Joe and the Hidden Horseshoe

Where did all the boys go? Pinked out, that’s where. Once, in pony stories, you’d expect the occasional boy; even equal participation. Josephine Pullein-Thompson wrote many titles in which it was entirely normal for a pony club to include girls and boys. No one thought it was odd. She even wrote titles in which the main character was a boy, like polio-stricken Charles in Show Jumping Secret. But girls came, more and more over the years, to be the only sex at which pony books were aimed. It’s a sad fact that a genre which started with girls being strong, independent and forging their own lives with their ponies, has been driven by the incessant need of marketers to define markets, into a pink cul-de-sac. The pony is now almost indivisible from princess culture, not helped by the sea of pink and sparkly stuff that’s swept over the equestrian equipment market: the insistence on workmanlike sobriety for horse and rider is long gone. Whilst personal choice is all very well, it’s worth a

Review: Lynda Kelly - The Most Horrible Pony

Amy’s dearest dream is to have a pony, but then her Great Aunt Myrtle buys her one. Clown, as the title, The Most Horrible Pony, suggests, has some horrible habits. He’s a demon to catch; he bites and bucks. There’s more for Amy to contend with though. One day, out on a ride with Clown, who isn’t totally unreliable, Amy finds a Thoroughbred filly in a deserted cottage. The mysterious Dagmar appears too. Amy finds out a famous filly has gone missing, and works out that the filly in the cottage is of course the missing Eastern Eclipse. There’s a reward for her return, but the huge blowfly in the ointment is Dagmar, who wriggles and squirms her way out of informing the police herself, and endlessly manipulates Amy (and later her friends) into not doing anything about it either. Amy finds this hornswogglingly irritating, and so did I. That’s good, in that I identified with the character, but Dagmar’s intransigence is so unrelenting and pigheaded (and this is quite a long book, so there’s

Review: Karen Bush - It Only Happens in Stories

Do you have editor’s twitch? Because I do, and there are an awful lot of books out there at the moment that make me want to grab a red pen and set about them. I recently read a self-published book whose whole plot was ludicrous because it was based on a fundamental error of fact a few moments’ Googling could have cleared up. Even books brought out by established publishing houses get it wrong: at least one of the pony facts in the Chloe Ryder series is puzzling, to say the least. Thankfully, none of that applies to It Only Happens in Stories. The horsey background is excellent: the author obviously knows her subject, and it’s great to read something which has been carefully thought through, is technically accurate, and didn’t make me think “WHAT?????” even once: because that is pretty rare. This is a short story (and be warned, it is short) about Clare and how she wakes up to what life could bring her. Clare and her best friend Nicky have just left school. Nicky’s the fortu

Review: Sarah Lean - A Horse for Angel

Sarah Lean: A Horse for Angel HarperCollins, 2013, £6.99 Also available as an ebook Sarah Lean’s website Sarah Lean is a new author to me: A Horse for Angel is her second book, following A Dog Called Homeless. Aimed at primary age children, it’s the story of Nell, who lives with her frantically busy, on-the-edge-of-neglectful, mother. Her father left them years ago to live in Las Vegas with a new woman, and Nell’s not seen him since. Nell’s life is a procession through different forms of childcare. She’s shipped off to an aunt she’s never met for two weeks during the summer, and there she meets Angel. Nell’s life may be difficult, but Angel’s is even more so. She’s on the run from a children’s home, and has kidnapped a horse, Bella. Bella needs saving from the meat man, and Angel needs saving from a life of loneliness. The two girls have a difficult relationship at first, but their gradual acceptance of one another is beautifully depicted. This book’s strength

In which something arrives in my letterbox

In our old house, post used to thump on to the doormat and the brass letter box would clang shut. It was difficult to miss the racket. The dog, who loved the post lady, would often bark with joy too. In our rental house, we have one of those external postbox things, and the dog tends not to spot the post people, so it wasn't until quite late this morning I spotted this: Which turned out to be this: The first copy I have ever held. I took it up with me when I met my daughter for lunch. "No, no, don't BEND it," I said. Really need to stop thinking as a bookdealer and as someone who wants people to read the book...... If you'd like to win a copy, I have one, this one in fact - the first, the very first, which you can win on my Facebook page . You'll need to Like the page, and then add your name to the comments below the picture. I'll do the draw on Thursday.  If you absolutely never do Facebook, not ever, at all, feel free to add your name to

More from the cutting room floor: Ruby Ferguson part 2

Having found that there was at least an element of truth in Ruby Ferguson’s Children at the Shop, I was now bitten by the bug of family research. If Ruby had indeed lived in Woolwich, how much more of what she said in Children at the Shop was true? According to the book, her father was of Danish stock.  She describes a visit to her grand Danish grandmother in The Children at the Shop : “a psychologist would say that my blurred memories of the visit to Denmark were due to an unconscious desire to forget it. I  know that I suffered quite a lot and was rather subdued for days, then managed to get over it, though I found it impossible to like my grandmother and I don’t think she liked me either.” Although the autocratic grandmother is a splendid creation, if she existed, she lived in Sydenham. In this case, it is the dustjacket of Ruby’s Apricot Sky which is nearer the truth, with its description of her father coming from a long line of Norfolk farmers. Both David Ashby’s p

More from the cutting room floor: Ruby Ferguson

I wonder how many people read the blurb about the author that appears on many dustjackets? If you have a collection of Ruby Ferguson’s books, and had made a habit of reading the dustjackets, you’d very soon have ended up confused. They’re contradictory, to say the least. Many of the biographical snippets she flung out in dustjacket blurbs need to be taken with a pinch of salt; and most of all those in her “autobiography”, Children at the Shop. Ruby Ferguson’s life as portrayed by her is best described as a romance built on scraps of fact, which when one’s living is earned as a writer, is perhaps fair enough. There are not many sources for Ruby’s life: the most easily accessible are the dustjackets of some of her books, and the “autobiography” Children at the Shop. It doesn’t take long before you spot inconsistencies: on the dustjackets of Apricot Sky (1952), Ruby claimed descent from a long line of Norfolk farmers; on Jill and the Perfect Pony (1956), a Highland ancestry and a chil

May Bank Holiday Sale

For the first time ever, my horse book collection is in the same place. And in alphabetical order. Like this: and this: After rather a lot of this: All of this frantic activity means that I've been able to sort out my duplicates. I've also decided that some of my childhood collection has to go. I've replaced much of it now with hardbacks, and (for once) I'm going to be hard hearted and the childhood stuff must go. Apart from this: and indeed this: and well, the odd other title..... So, the stuff I have managed to harden my heart about is going, very cheaply, on my sales website .  Not only that, there's 10% off on everything else on my site , apart from new stock, during the Bank Holiday weekend. Like this: down from £40.00 to £36.00 .