Review: Ruth Benton Blackmore - One Good Turn

Forelock Books are the latest equestrian publisher, and they specialise in pony stories. Their first two titles, One Good Turn and Finders Keepers are just out (Finders Keepers is reviewed separately). I was intrigued to see what Forelock would produce, because the glory days when anything was published as long as it had a pony are well behind us, and the rise of the formulaic, part-of-a-series book has hit the pony book just as hard as it has every other area of children’s fiction.

So, how have Forelock done? Their first two books are solid and well-written. They’ve gone for character-driven pony stories, loaded with accurate equine detail, welded onto pretty conventional plots. If you want decent stories, crammed full of ponies, without any of the current fads that you find in the rest of the pony book market, these should fit the bill.

One Good Turn is my favourite out of the two. Bethany has moved to Cornwall, and is feeling isolated and lonely. You don’t get any build up to this: the story launches straight in with Bethany finding a skewbald pony stuck in wire on the moor, which she’s helped to free by a boy who lives at the local riding school. Finding the pony is the start of Bethany finding friends and her place in the community. She calls the pony Bracken – she can’t afford to buy him, but the riding school owner, Harry’s mother, suggests that Bethany looks after the pony as a contribution to his keep. Bethany of course is delighted, and then you get the usual pony is rehabilitated story.

There’s a bit more to this book than that, however. There’s an interesting cast of characters, and amongst the other children who ride at the stables, there’s Annabelle. She’s the archetypal rich girl: beautiful pony, beautiful clothes, and foul to everyone who’s unlucky enough to be anywhere near her. I found her the most interesting of the characters, because, as we find out, there is a reason why she’s so horrid. It’s the treatment of Annabelle that makes this book have the edge over Forelock’s other offering, because the author’s looked behind the conventional characterisation so often found in pony books, and I always like a book which doesn’t feel it has to unthinkingly serve up the very well worn pony book tropes.

This book is illustrated – another big plus. It’s great to have an illustrated children’s book aimed at the older age groups. If you’re five or younger, there’s any amount of bright, colour-filled books, but after that, and particularly if you’re capable of reading on your own, you can whistle for illustrations. I like the ones Ruth Benton Moore’s done for this book. They have a wiry energy to them.
Sadly the quality of the illustration and writing isn’t reflected in the editing. Both books are littered with the most distracting sort of punctuation error. The publisher does assure me this will change.

But all power to Forelock: whilst they haven’t yet set the world of equestrian fiction alight, both these books are good, solid reads.

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I have a copy of this book to give away: to enter, add your name to the comments below this review. If you can't, add them to the post on my Facebook page instead.

Ruth Benton Blackmore: One Good Turn
Forelock Books, 2014, £9.99 (hardback)

Age of main character: 11-12
Themes: loneliness, fitting in

Forelock's website


Georgina Blair said…
Yay - can't wait to read it. New pony fiction which isn't some horsey boarding school series sounds great!
Jenn S. said…
Very cool! I'm so excited to see a publisher of new pony books! I'd love to win this!
Goldielover said…
I'd love to give this a try too. Not normally a fan of newer pony fiction, but quite willing to check it out.
Kate Lattey said…
Good to know. I'm not a huge fan of the cover, but I'm very picky about covers (and the red would certainly stand out on a shelf).
Pauline Cowan said…
Sounds good. I would love to win it.

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