PBOTD 8th March: Joyce Stranger - Breed of Giants

Joyce Stranger was an author who passed me by completely until quite recently. It's probably just as well, as she wrote over 70 animal stories, and my childhood budget was stretched to its limits buying the books I did manage to find. As most of her books are for adults (though two of her horse books, The Wild Ponies (1976) and Midnight Magic (1991) are children's stories) they were shut away from me in the local library, in the adult books I was not allowed to borrow.

Hammond, 1966, first edition, illus David Rook
Breed of Giants (1966), was Joyce Stranger's second book, and followed a story about foxes (The Running Foxes). It was the first of her books about horses: she wrote eleven, and one non fiction title Stranger than Fiction (1984), about girl jockey Elspeth Bryce Smith, paralysed with polio, but who recovered enough to be able to disguise herself and ride as a jockey called John Grey.

Viking, US, 1967
Joyce Stranger based Breed of Giants on a real Shire horse breeder: Jim Gould, of Lymm Shires in Cheshire. Everything described in the book happened to Gould's horses. She described them as "wonderful black animals, that had triumphed over and over again in the shows."

Corgi paperback
The hero of the book, Josh Johnson, breeds Shires, but runs into bad luck. His best horse, who is meant to save the stud, has an accident, and this is followed, as so often in farming, by more disasters. Josh, like most Stranger heroes, is a fighter, and manages to build up his winning strain of horses again.

Corgi paperback
Corgi paperback, 1979
Breed of Giants was first published by Hammond in 1966. It was published in America by Viking in 1967, and I've included that edition here, even though I don't usually include overseas editions, purely because I love the line drawing on this edition. It shows Shires in fiery play, rather than in the more usual static poses one tends to think of Shires in. All three Corgi paperbacks use the standard Shires-at-show pose, although the earliest edition does show a horse who looks rather more interested in taking off, leaving his handler trailing along behind.

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For more on Joyce Stranger, see her page on my website.


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