PBOTD: 21st March, Josephine Pullein-Thompson - Pony Club Cup

I first heard about this title when I came back to buying pony books, years after I'd originally stopped. I'd found a dealer of pony books online (Louise Simmonds of Ozbek Books - who alas no longer seems to be trading), and she had Pony Club Cup in her stock list. I was very excited because I thought Josephine Pullein-Thompson must have added some later titles to the Noel and Henry series, but Louise soon put me right. Pony Club Cup was the first of an entirely different series about an entirely different pony club.

Armada Original, 1983
The Woodbury Pony Club are hopeless. Every other Pony Club within range treats them as a joke. And then, they get a new instructor. They're not particularly impressed with the idea of David Lumley, ex steeplechase jockey, at first, but he takes them in hand, and in true Pullein-Thompson fashion, they begin to improve their riding.

Pony Club Cup was written in Josephine Pullein-Thompson's second period. After All Change, written in 1961, she had a ten year break from writing children's books. She started again in 1971 with Race Horse Holiday, an adventure story, and continued writing books very different from her original output. She moved away from the instructional model that had served her so well, and concentrated on adventure, with books like the Moors series, and historical stories in the Black Beauty's Family series she wrote with her sisters.

Dean, 1994 - compilation of the whole series
Pony Club Cup saw a return to the intructional mould: you could say with a vengeance. The instruction is far more noticeable than in the Noel and Henry series, where there's much more interplay between the characters. Pony Club Cup features little of the home life you see with Noel and Henry: the Woodbury Pony Club members really only live in the rallies and clinics. The instruction, as always, is excellent and it's a tribute to what a good writer Josephine Pullein-Thompson is that she doesn't make this into the Equine equivalent of Prozac. She's brilliant at imparting the information in a non-preachy way and making it come alive by her description of the ponies' and riders' reactions.

There's the usual keen observation of Pony Club mothers. I particularly like the dreadful Mrs Rooke, who has two daughters, Lesley and Sarah. Sarah's the golden girl, who can do no wrong. Even when Lesley, who's understandably bitter and twisted when we first meet her, turns out to be good at dressage, Mrs Rooke can't actually allow this to change her view of wonder child Sarah. Of course, she says, Lesley might be good at dressage, but Sarah's an all rounder. I've heard mothers like that, praising one child endlessly and dismissing the other in a single sentence. It's chilling. (And do hope now that I don't do this with my two: but the fact that they both think the other is the favourite suggests that whatever I've got wrong, it's not that.)

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Pony Club Cup was published as an Armada Original in 1983 in paperback. As far as I know, it did not have a separate hardback edition. The book was republished several times with the same cover design. In 1994 Dean published a collection of the entire three book series, with the title Pony Club Stories.

For much more on Josephine Pullein-Thompson, see my website.


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