PBOTD: 8th February - Phyllis Ginger - Alexander the Circus Pony

Picture books which featured ponies were, sadly, thin on the ground when I was little. Not that I suffered unduly: I had, and still have, an obsession with Kathleen Hales' Orlando the Marmalade Cat, and Beatrix Potter. Has anyone else, in passing, ever thought about the complexity of the language Beatrix Potter uses in what are books aimed at the very young, in comparison with the books produced for small children now, beautifully illustrated and written though they are?

My son when around five had a complete obsession with Beatrix Potter's Samuel Whiskers. It's a lesser known Potter, probably because the protagonists are rats, who in no way can they be considered cute, and at one point they wrap Tom Kitten up in pastry, intending to boil and eat him. Not for my boy the fluffier pastures of the little mice sewing away for the tailor of Gloucester, or Peter Rabbit ending up under a flower pot. Possibly had Peter's father met a more spectacular, and lovingly described end than he does in the book (he ends up in a pie and that's all we know) and Peter's brush with death had been more overtly described, my son would have appreciated it.

But I am digressing. I've never read Alexander the Circus Pony, because it is rare as hen's teeth, and the only copy I can find for sale at the moment is well north of £300.  The Puffin Picture Books first appeared in WW2, and included authors like Kathleen Hale. The titles were fiction and non fiction (and included one of my all time favourites, Riding for Children, by Henry Wynmalen, illustrated by Michael Lyne). Amongst the fiction titles was Phyllis Ginger's Alexander the Circus Pony (1943). She both 

wrote and illustrated the book. As far as I know, it's the only pony book she produced, though she was also responsible for the illustrations for the (frankly bizarre) The Mushroom Pony (1947) by Joan Lamburn.

I was asked earlier this week how I had managed to pass one of my university exams when it was patently obvious I knew virtually nothing. I think the piece above shows you how: I know nothing about the contents of the book whatsover, but have still managed to dance around the subject for around 400 words.

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For a bit more (there's not much, but there is a bit) on Phyllis Ginger, try my website.


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