Review: Victoria Eveleigh - Katy's Pony Challenge
The Katy stories were what established Victoria Eveleigh as an author. I read those when they were first out, and loved their inspired rejection of the pink, frilly and sentimental. The stories were picked up by Orion, re-written, and after an excursion into an excellent pony series centring around boy hero Joe, Victoria has returned to Katy and her Exmoors.
Victoria Eveleigh never disappoints, and this book is another triumph. One of the things I so enjoy about this author is her fearlessness. If you write pony stories, you can, frankly, churn out any rubbish you like as long as it has the requisite pony in it. Talking about the 1950s, children’s author Geoffrey Trease said ‘In those days you could have sold Richard III if you had given it the right wrapper and called it A Pony for Richard,’ but it’s just as valid now. Victoria Eveleigh does not do that. Katy’s Pony Challenge looks at what you do when you can’t actually ride your pony, for whatever reason. And what you do when you decide that actually, equine competition is not for you. And at how you can still be involved with horses, no matter what difficulties you have.
Katy discovers horse agility, which is a big help to her as she tries to train her foal, Tinkerbell, with whom Katy has made some pretty major mistakes in her upbringing, not realising that a foal rearing up and putting its hooves on your shoulders might be cute when it’s only weeks old but is an entirely different thing when the foal weighs several times more than you do. I suppose you could say that in some ways this book does carry on that great central trope of the pony story - the morality tale. You learn how to train a foal properly from the off, that competition isn’t the be all and end all and neither in fact is riding, and that just because someone is different, doesn’t mean that you should reject them.
This could make the book one of those you read but feel uncomfortable about, because although you support the ideas behind it, the way it’s done makes it difficult to clear the awful hurdle of authorial superiority. There is absolutely no danger of that here. I think what makes Victoria Eveleigh’s writing so successful is her utter lack of sentimentality. There is plenty of deep feeling, but she never writes for effect; never wrings her readers’ emotions in order to get a reaction. She writes about difficult things: Katy’s jealousy when Trifle and autistic James have an instant bond is a beautifully done scene. Katy and her friend Alice’s Facebook lives are rather different from what’s actually going on in their lives. Friendship is sometimes very difficult indeed.
Katy’s Pony Challenge is a beautifully written addition to the series. It’s difficult to see how you could fail if you’re buying this for a pony mad child, or indeed for yourself.
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Thanks to Orion for sending me a copy of this book.
Orion, 2015: £5.99
Kindle: £3.99, Kobo: £3.99
Age of main characters: 12-13?
Themes: autism, managing friendships
Equine themes: horse agility