Showing posts from January, 2014

PBOTD: 31st January, Catherine Harris - We Started a Riding Club

Catherine Harris was another pony book author who started young. We Started a Riding Club was her first book, written while she was in her teens. It's one of those pony books with no mystery at all about its title: the protagonists, Simone, Monica, Dean and Charles, start a riding club. They're fortunate children, as they have ponies, and all the help they need, as their grandfather fortunately happens to be an MFH.

The grandfather was one of those terrifying MFHs who probably bellowed at anyone who sinned on the hunting field, and would have slaughtered anyone who dared to run into hounds. There is little chance for the riding club to stray from the straight and narrow under his patronage, and they go on to have a thoroughly respectable mock hunt. The riding club does require hard work from its youthful founders though, and you can't help but feel life is in some ways easier today when you see the children typing out each individual notice rather than simply running them …

PBOTD: 30th January, Primrose Cumming - Silver Eagle Riding School

Primrose Cumming, were she writing today, would never have been able to publish the sheer variety of books she did. Out of her twenty books, only three made a series. If she’d been writing today, Silver Snaffles would have been the start of a lengthy series: today, publishers like series, and like to commission children’s books as a series, because series sell. Perhaps if Silver Snaffles had not been published just as World War II started, in 1939, there would have been more pressure from her publishers to do so. Silver Snaffles, however, remains a one off, and is probably all the better for it.
Primrose did, however, write one series, which was about the Silver Eagle Riding School. The Silver Eagle Riding School (1938) was the first pony story to be centred around a riding school. Almost all previous pony books featured children who, if they didn’t have a pony at the beginning of the book, did by the end. It wasn’t the first book to feature what became awell worn trope of a family w…

PBOTD: 29th January, Michelle Bates - A Horse for the Summer

The Sandy Lane stables series has been in print since the 1990s. It's set at a stables, and features a group of girls and boys and their equestrian adventures. A Horse for the Summer, published in 1996, was the first in what was to be a series of nine books. The series was written by two authors: Michelle Bates and Susannah Leigh. The exact authorship isn't terribly clear. Some titles can be found with both authors credited.
The first printing of the series had photographic covers. The next printings, both, as far as I know, produced in 2009, go a little way towards the current trend for the pink and sparkly. 

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For more on the Sandy Lane Stables series, there's a page on my website.

PBOTD: 28th January, Monica Edwards - No Mistaking Corker

No Mistaking Corker is I think the first Monica Edwards I ever read. It was published in the Vanguard Book of Horses and Riding, of which our local library had a copy. I think I had the book out on almost permanent loan, as it was the only Monica Edwards the library had.

No Mistaking Corker, published in 1947 was one of the first books Monica Edwards published: Wish for a Pony, the start of her other series, Romney Marsh, was published in the same year. Both series involve families and groups of children, and both to some extent, ponies. Monica Edwards hated being known as an author of pony stories, but her first books fell firmly into that camp. No Mistaking Corker is the story of the Thornton family, who are off on a holiday in a horse-drawn caravan. Andrea, Dion, Lindsay and Peter journey through Devon, with various problems caused by the fact the horse pulling the van, Corker, can indeed be mistaken for other brown carthorses. The book ends with daring rescue of stolen horses, and …

PBOTD: 27th January, Jessie Haas - Appaloosa Zebra

Jessie Haas is one of my favourite American horse story authors. She seems to be able to write for any age, from pre-schooler to teenager. Appaloosa Zebra - a Horse Lover's Alphabet (2002) is a delight. The book doesn't just cover breeds, which it does, from the obvious like Clydesdales, to the obscure, but also other horsey goodies like hard hats and hacks.
I have done a lot of reading aloud in my time, and there some books my children were obsessed with that made me want to run for the hills when they asked for them, yet again. This is definitely not one I would have edited as I went along, invented new incidents for out of desperation, or have suppressed. There's plenty there for the adult too - marvel, say at the fact the Icelandic Yakult is a breed of horse that's, so far, escaped you.
The book is beautifully illustrated by Margot Apple, who worked with Haas on the excellent Runaway Radish and Scamper and the Horse Show 

Sadly Appaloosa Zebra is no longer in print,…

PBOTD: 26th January, Anne Digby - A Horse Called September

If you were a fan of school stories, you might well have read Anne Digby's fourteen book Trebizon series, published from 1978-1994. Heroine Rebecca and her friends Tish, Mara and Susan move on up the school from their first uncertain years until they hit the fifth form. Anne Digby was good on the tricky relationships between girls in this series, and she brought the same sympathetic eye to the first of her pony books, A Horse Called September (1976). At the beginning of the book, Mary and Anna are inseparable, sharing everything, even Anna's horse, September.

Anna's father has big plans for her. He wants social success, and he sends her away to boarding school at Kilmingdean, which specialises in producing champion show jumpers. Mary is left behind, employed by Anna's father to look after September. At first Anna does write, as she's promised, but the letters dry up as Anna is caught between the desire to be like the girls at school, and her old friendship.

Not only …

PBOTD: 25th January, Lois Castellain: Adolphus the TV Horse

Adolphus is one of those creations you look at and wonder how you missed. He seems such an ebullient creature, it's difficult to believe how completely he and his friends have faded from view.
Adolphus the Clydesdale was created by author and illustrator Lois Castellain, and first appeared as a sort of cross between cartoon and short story in Riding Magazine. Riding had a Young Rider's section, which included a short story, two pages of letters from young readers, and, from September, 1939, Adolphus and his friend Dodie, the Shetland. They were there to do a job: Adolphus was a walking anatomy lesson. He was so bony that it was easy to see his points. His sidekick was a much better covered equine: a Shetland called Dodie.
The books are not particularly easy to find. The first book, Adolphus, was published in 1939, presumably to tie in with their introduction in Riding. The second, Adolphus the TV Horse, was published nearly 30 years later, when times had changed, and the farm ho…

Review: Amanda Wills – The Lost Pony of Riverdale

The book is free this weekend ((1-2 February 2014), and there's a link here.

Poppy McKeever is a lucky girl: she and her family are moving out of London to the country, Dartmoor, to be precise, and a pony comes with the new house. It all sounds like the pony fantasy come true, but that’s very far from the case. Poppy’s mother died when she was little, saving her after she ran out into the road, and her father’s married again. Her stepmother Caroline, seems lovely: endlessly kind and patient, but Poppy has never forgiven Caroline for not being her mother, and for having her little brother, Charlie, whom she’s convinced Caroline loves more than her. The problem is that Poppy’s thought this way for so long; her thought patterns are so much part of her, that she finds it almost impossible to think any other way.

How Poppy finds her way through to understanding what her stepmother’s really like, and that there’s a real person behind what Poppy’s constructed, is the central point of th…

PBOTD: 24th January, K M Peyton - Fly-by-Night

K M Peyton's Fly-by-Night is a book I loved because I saw so much of myself in its heroine, Ruth. Ruth does not have a pony, but she longs for one. Her family struggle to make ends meet, and the only way Ruth will have a pony is if she does it herself. For the moment, the nearest she can get to ponies is skulking at the edge of the field where the local Pony Club are having a rally. I too have stood there, longing beyond all things to be part of that world, but knowing I wasn't. I knew that, save for a miracle, I never would be, but Ruth made it happen. She uses her savings, and buys the sort of pony a girl who doesn't actually know anything would buy: an unbroken New Forest pony called Fly-by-Night.

Fly was based on a real pony: Cracker, the pony K M Peyton bought for her daughter, Hilary. Cracker gave K M Peyton a great deal of material for the book. Although he later became a model pony, with a waiting list of keen Pony Club mothers eager to acquire him for their offspr…

Review: Maggie Dana – After the Storm

After the Storm is the eighth book in the Timber Ridge Riders series. The last episode had arch villain Angela Dean shipped off elsewhere, but she’s back in book eight, and she’s not been improved by her absence. More importantly, neither has her mother.

It’s winter in Vermont, and when the electricity goes out in the barn, Kate, Holly and Kimberley are left to feed the horses. In the pitch black, the buckets get mixed up, and the pony vulnerable to colic gets the wrong bucket. After they’re rescued from the storm, Angela spreads the rumour that it was Kate who was responsible, and nearly everyone believes her. Holly wants Kate to stand up for herself, for once, but Kate’s useless at confrontation, and Angela walks all over her. Relationships then spiral out of control as Kate’s fury at herself, and Holly’s hurt and desire to protect her mother lead to a major falling out of the ways.
This book has all the things that go to make the Timber Ridge Riders such a good read: the plot move…

PBOTD: 23rd January, Mary Gervaise - A Pony of Your Own

Today's pony book is the first in Mary Gervaise's G for Georgia series. Mary Gervaise is an interesting author. I discovered (handily, after I'd written my book on the history of the pony book, Heroines on Horseback) that Mary Gervaise played a larger part in the genesis of the genre than I'd thought. In the 1930s, she's combining ponies with family and school adventure. The early books I've found, The Twins in the Third (1932), and The Dauntless Clan (1938) are neither of them classic pony adventure, but neither are they classic school or adventure stories either. They are, however, an attempt to use ponies in stories where they're not telling their own story.
What Mary Gervaise liked writing about best was families and their relationships. However her publishers badged her books to fit them into what genre was selling best: school or pony, it is families that are at the centre of the books. The first book in the Georgia series, A Pony of Your Own (1950) …

Review: Susan Ketchen – Born That Way

Born That Way is the first of a trilogy of stories about Sylvia, who is fourteen. It soon becomes obvious that Sylvia is not an everyday fourteen year old. She used to get on well with everyone at school, but lately it’s changed. Although everyone else in her class is growing up and entering puberty, Sylvia isn’t. She’s small: really small, and that’s now marking her out as different. What also becomes obvious during the book is that Sylvia’s parents have a great deal of idea of what’s going on in their own lives, and at work, but not a clue about Sylvia and what she’s going through. Sylvia knows things should be different:
“I’m a teenager with the body of an eight-year-old. I don’t mind so much that I’m not developed, but being short is a big problem for me.”
- particularly when your grandfather has promised you your dearest wish, a pony, when you as tall as his shoulder -
“That’s why I stretch, any chance I get. But what I really don’t understand is why my parents don’t say anything…

PBOTD: 22nd January, Ruby Ferguson - A Stable for Jill

I was going to do a selection of covers for A Stable for Jill, but then I thought, why not go for the lot. It is the title with, I think, more cover variations than any other Jill title. Quite why this is, I'm not sure.
A Stable for Jill (1951) is the second in the Jill series, and in it Jill's whisked right away from Chatton. You might have thought, if you'd read Jill's Gymkhana (1949), that the next book would see Jill carrying on life in Chatton, riding Black Boy and seeing her friends, but instead Ruby Ferguson chose to put Jill into an environment that's alien to her. Jill has to go and stay with her Aunt Primrose, and her cousin Cecilia for the summer. It's not what Jill planned, at all, but as her mother's going on a tour of America, Jill has to go somewhere, and staying at home on her own isn't an option. 
Jill is, eventually, resigned to her fate. We've already met Cecilia in Jill's Gymkhana, and we know they don't get on. They'…

Guest blog: Victoria Eveleigh - The Horses In My Stories, And How They Got There

Welcome to today’s guest blogger, author Victoria Eveleigh. Victoria is one of my favourite modern pony book authors. I first discovered her when she self-published her first stories about Katy and her Exmoor pony, and I’ve loved everything she’s written since. Victoria is an author who’s managed to steer clear of the pink and sparkly, and write pony stories which take you into their heart. Her most recent series has a boy as its central character: almost unheard of for a British pony book.  The last part of the series, Joe and the Race to Rescue, is out in March 2014, and if it’s as good as the first two, is well worth waiting for.
You can learn more about Victoria and her books on her website.
Over to Victoria....
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One of the things I love about writing horse and pony stories is that I can invent equine characters. Creating fictional people is laborious and involves lots of sticky notes, but I can conjure up an imaginary horse in an instant. Thank goodness I’ve stumbled upon…