PBOTD: 23rd March, Gillian Baxter - The Difficult Summer

Back in January (which does seem alarmingly far away now), I featured the first in Gillian Baxter's Bracken House Stable series, Jump to the Stars. The Difficult Summer (1959) is the second in the series. Bobby has now left school, and is working at the stables with its owner Guy, and the other groom, Heath. When the book opens, Heath and Bobby are packing up the horse box after a successful show. Everything seems to be going well, and they enjoy the sunlit journey back. But on the way, a plane flies very low overhead: dangerously low, and then it crashes. 

Evans, 1959, illus Anne Gordon

Guy is injured trying to get his horse out. The horse dies, as do several others (so if you don't like books where horses die, avoid this one). Bobby and Heath are left in charge of the stables. Things go from bad to worse. The latest insurance payment wasn't posted, and there is no chance of compensation from the owners of the plane, as they're about to go into liquidation. The yard is in a terrible state: half burned. 

Dragon, paperback, 1967
Bobby's old school doesn't help: Bracken House badly need the income from their regular contract with the school, and that hits problems.

Dragon, paperback, 1978
As is the way of these things, the problems are eventually ironed out, and Bobby and Guy finally recognise their feelings for each other. It's a thoroughly satisfying end, actually. Bobby's overcome an awful lot of adversity in a completely believable manner. The fire dragon's been slain.
The Difficult Summer was first published by Evans in 1959, and was illustrated by Anne Gordon. It had two publications after that, both in paperback. Dragon published the first paperback edition in 1967, with a cover by Mary Gernat. They updated the cover in 1978, with another pictorial version. If anyone is able to shed any light on who the cover artist was I'd be very grateful.

For more on Gillian Baxter, see her page on my website.


fiona moate said…
I would guess this is by the same artist (or agency) that produced the covers for the later Brumby series. This is because the horses are drawn from photographs in books. In Brumby they are from The Arab Horse in Europe. The horse on the cover of Jump to the Stars is a chestnut version of Snowbound at the 1968 Olympics, I think this one is a thoroughbred stallion from a stud card and The Perfect Horse is Princess Anne's Doublet in a dun colourway.
Joanna Kenny said…
I really enjoyed this one and The Perfect Horse, but I haven't read Jump to the Stars. I had the 1967 Dragon edition. I think I liked them because there were realistic difficulties (I know plane crashes are uncommon), and she doesn't ignore the awfulness of the aftermath of a fire.
janebadgerbooks said…
I liked them for the same reason. It's a realistic slog, and not a cursory nod towards the difficulties of life!
janebadgerbooks said…
That is absolutely fascinating. I will be in touch!
Kate Lattey said…
I'm the opposite, I have Jump to the Stars (and have read it many times) but haven't been able to find The Perfect Horse. Great books :)

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