Monday, 31 December 2007

Ride By Night Christine Pullein-Thompson

Another entertaining read by the undeniable 'queen' of the pony books. I cannot think too many authors have had more works published than CPT (especially of this genre)?

A camping holiday in the Highlands (presumably) on ponies turns quickly in a battle against adversity to save the lives of two Romanian asylum seekers fleeing the Russian fleet. A little far fetched maybe but nether the less entertaining. However I can't help thinking it just an adaptation of her first novel We Rode To Sea. It is a long time since I read it but it also concerns a holiday in the Highlands (widely thought to be set between Fort William and Inverness) although this time it's a family rather than a group of friends and rather than being persued they end up persuing some Germans, who have two of their ponies, quite literally to the sea.

I am still mulling over the setting for this one too. Immediately Fort Augustus (Fort Angus) sprung to mind but there was a mention of it being by the sea and a beach so that cannot be. Mallaig (Collig) was also a thought and then they could have rode to Ayisaig maybe but I don't think this would provide a large enough town so I am a little perplexed. I know the sisters held great affection for Scotland and were frequent visitors so can't help thinking the town and village mentioned are real and most likely in the Highlands.

The story begins when Sheila and Desmond, who are bored and seeking some excitement, first think of organising a mounted camping expedition. Never did they imagine what drama and excitement was to follow! First the trekkers get lost, then they lose a horse and end up saving the lives of two Romanian asylum seekers, amid a barrage of gun fire, who are fleeing Russian Fleets.

In true CPT style it is quite dark in tone and not without it's casualties. One of the Romanians is shot, the children generally suffer from hunger and fatige and poor Jennifer has a nasty fall and breaks her nose. Tom Thumb, Ian's borrowed potential dressage horse, is injured but it is poor 'rich girl' Leslie, (whom turned out not to be spoilt and stuck up, as they had imagined prior to leaving, in the least) who suffered the most. Ching Poo (what a brilliant name!), her Peke, falls to his death down a prepice while escaping the Russians while her pony Raspberry also ends up becoming lame too.

Although I have pictured the the first edition with the beautiful Sheila Rose cover, I read a Pb copy which I have owned, but never before read, from childhood. I have found that there are a number Of Christine's books , which I own that fall into this category whereas I have read (and more often than not devoured) both Diana's and Josephine's books as soon as I have got my hands on them, in fact the childhood ones that escaped my mums recycling sprees were/are now rather tired and dog eared! The reason was summed up perfectly however by Jane Badger, some time ago in this excellent post on her blog, where she described some of her works as being outside her comfort zone. I had not really given the reason why, despite commercially being the most successful of the sisters, I had never liked her books as much as her sisters that much thought prior to reading this post. On reading the post it fell into place, as it was also outside my comfort zone. I didn't like the doom and casualties a lot of her books carried but also the subjects were sometimes out of the comfort zone of a pony mad youngster, after all I wanted to gallop on beaches and win rosettes and not be worrying whether I would escape from Russian Fleets!

Dark Champion Arthur Waterhouse

I seem to be having a run of choosing really good reads at the min and this one, although not in The same league as The Milkman's Cob, is also a well written enjoyable story. I have also come to the conclusion that although I like school stories, apart from No Ponies For Miss Pobjoy, school stories and ponies don't mix that well, which was further confirmed when I read the (in my opinion) rather forgettable Ponies At Westways recently. The blurb stated you want to read it at least twice, or words to that effect, but I think once was enough for me!

Now I've gone somewhat off track and must point out that Dark Champion is not a school/pony story. The Author Arthur Waterhouse, appears to have written a number of children's books, including some under the pseudonyms Vera Painter, but this seems to be his only foray into the world of pony books. I would hazard a guess that he did not really know one end of a horse from another as, as I found with Peter Greys Kit Hunter series also, although the story/ies are great there are rather large and gaping blunders where the horses are concerned, in this one the main thing is how the children gallop and jump Jim straight from the stable and cold. Warming up is never given a second glance and like Peter Grey's books it is assumed/taken for granted that all horses need regular good gallops and can be jumped day after day after day without getting fed up/soured. Another thing that struck me is how very much times have changed, this book having been first published 60 years ago next year (tomorrow...scary yet another one gone). I couldn't help but think all the time I was reading it that there was something rather sinister in Mr Martin and his son Colonel Martins interest in two young (ish) children, especially the extra interest in Brenda, but this is clearly a sign of the times and is rather sad really that the first thought is that the sad lonely old man must be a paedophile. I guess in it's era it was perfectly acceptable but I fear now he would have been persecuted.

The story struck me as almost two stories in one, one of which was a pony story. It begins as a lovely pony story, Framer Webster inadvertently buys a poor bedraggled black horse at an auction. When the mistake is realised, he agrees to keep the horse and condition it ready for the next auction in a months time. So Connemara Jim comes to live on the farm and immediately wins the heart of Farmer Websters daughter Brenda. In true female style Brenda can wind the opposite sex round her little finger and with David's help persuades her father they would like to keep Jim. He soon looks a whole lot better and it's time for the next auction, Farmer Webster tries to pay for Jim but the auctioneer won't hear of it so to please Brenda, David takes drastic measures and goes into hiding with Jim until the coast is clear.

Shortly after this episode their Father agrees to them riding Jim, and old Farm hand Danny, who saw his potential as soon as he arrived, becomes more and more convinced he is an Irish hunter and it is he who suggests the name, Connemara Jim.

One Gloriously sunny morning however a shock is in store for Brenda and David, as Jim is missing from his paddock. He is later traced as having made his way (via some rather fearsome hedges it would seem) to Red Hall the home of a rather fail old gentleman Mr Martin. Old Danny is delighted as it would seem his surmise of Jim had been correct. Brenda and David set out to fetch Jim home and this is where the story opens out and almost has a second storyline running Pararell with the pony one woven around Jim and his new life. The children meet Mr Martin and Brenda, usually quite shy, takes an instant liking to the old man and shocks David by her talkativeness. Brena also shows a peculiar attraction to a photograph of a young woman on Mr Martins wall and a strange friendship occurs between the old man and the children. In between training Jim for the whitenside show, where David is to jump him, they regularly visit Mr Martin and Brenda's fascination of the picture continues. It is around now the reader learns that unknown to the children Brenda is in fact adopted.

The Whitsentide show brings disappointment as David's nerves cause Jim to run away with him in the jumping but at the same time everyone is delighted at the potential Jim shows and the next goal is set. At this point he auctioneer rears his head again offering to buy Jim but Farmer Webster refuses his offer to the children's delight. The Children also make another new friend in the form of Mr Martins son Colonel Martin, again David is baffled by Brenda's unusual behaviour/attraction to another stranger. He owns a fine mare Ladybird and allows the children use of her and Brenda rides her to victory at the September show in the riding class. David jumps Jim to a clear in the first round of jumping but then a freak fall injures his wrist and it looks as though Jim will never get his chance to prove his worth. However it is finally agreed that Brenda will take Davids place in the jump off (something that would never happen nowadays) and she rides Jim to victory. On entering the ring the commentator makes an error and announces her as Brenda Martin, which rather confirmed what the second story line already had me thinking and also what Mr and Mrs Webster had been thinking. It comes out shortly after in conversation between the Websters and Colonel Martin that Brenda is in fact their adopted daughter and this leads to the colonels own sad story being told. While away in the army his wife and daughter had vanishes, presumed killed in a train crash....the same train crash the orphanage had found Brenda at the scene of. He immediately sets out to visit the orphanage to see how plausible it is that Brenda could be his long lost daughter. Within her records a locket is found, that had not been noticed before then, and in it a picture of Colonel Martin, suddenly her attraction to the two men and of course the photo are instantly explained. If this is not unbelievable enough the fact that both children hardly batter an eyelid at the news and all go off to live happily ever after rather spoilt the ending for me, as in reality I am sure it is not so simple. However don't be put off as Connemara Jim's story is a lovely one, abet a little over shadowed by the adoption story towards the second half of the book.

Sunday, 30 December 2007

Santa returns!

Hooray....Santa didn't forget me.....he brought me this little beauty yesterday. Better late than never and I promise not to sell it this time too!

Thursday, 27 December 2007

The Milkman's Cob June Mary Groves

This is the best book I have read in a very long time! It is not a book I had heard of previously but and having seen (and lost) a couple on eBay, it was one I was on the look out for, then on actually winning one it has taken several months to get round to reading it, but boy was it worth it!

It is reasonably unique in that the story is told by four different characters, all of whom play a major role in the story, Not unlike DPT’s Pony to School actually as they share the story telling throughout, although Katy has first and last (well last proper) say.

The Main character, in that I mean whom the story focus’s on, is Kathleen (known as Katy). The story begins with Katy jumping her very good jumping pony Larke in the leading Junior show jumper at Hoys. She is here with two other central characters (who also tell the story) John, also competing with his jumping pony Greystones and international show jumper Jane, who is also the local pony club DC.
Larke collapses during her round and a heartbroken Katy shies away from contact with horses for a whole year, save a passing interest in Larkes Dam, Gay, (a new Forest pony living in the forest) and the Milkman’s Cob, Happy, whom she first met (and grew to love)as a 7 year old child.
On hearing the Dairy are to change to vans, and Happy will be sold, Katy decides to buy him. With Jane’s help they buy Happy (the Happy prince, as Jane calls him) at auction and Katy sets about schooling him under saddle once more.
A day out hunting proves to all Happy scope and jumping ability as while bolting with Katy he clears a 5ft 3 hedge the rest of the field have spurned in favour of a lower gate…however Katy, not expecting him to jump, is thrown and concussed, and although happy to ride after finds she has lost her nerve where jumping is concerned. Jane is rather a strong, harsh character and finds Jane loss of nerve irksome and has little patience but Jane’s brother Andrew (who also joins in the story telling) proves a more mellow and sympathetic character and it is he who helps Katy regain her nerve, even if one of his methods is somewhat unorthodox) and soon Katy and Happy, as always accompanied by John and greystones, are ready for their First Show. After an initial setback with crowds, happy proves that he may have been a Milkman’s cob but now he is a real force to be reakoned with in the jumping ring and despite a few adventures along the way, including rescuing Gay’s foal from a bog, Happy jumps his way (with a little help from Katie) to the Hoys. Here he helps Katy achieve what Larke died trying, albeit we find out with a little help from Katy’s guardian Angel, Andrew.

A beautifully written book and a real rags to riches story, and after all we love an underdog don’t we? June groves characters are very well developed and it does leave you wondering if they are based on real people as they are incredibly real, maybe it’s the writing style of telling the story in the first person (or persons in this case). The Authors dedication gives away there was a real Happy, but whether or not he too was a milkman’s cob is not stated.
Find a copy and devour it, I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.
On a negative note the illustrations do not do the lovely story justice what so ever unfortunately, but do not let this put you off.

Friday, 21 December 2007

A Pony Of Gold, Avril C.R. Knott

From the DW,

This is the most absorbing story of Fairest, a beautiful little golden chestnut pony, and her devoted 15 year old mistress.

Sorry but couldn't think of a better introduction for this book than the one it was given at publication.

The story begins with Sandra returning home from being abroad, convalescing, and her pony fairest being stolen by Gypsy's (of course!). Fairest's first new home is short lived as tormented by Kenneth, she turns on him and is branded vicious......thus sending her to a new home and job as a hireling. Bad riding and management turns the sweet mare into a difficult and moody animal and an accident involving a client puts her on dicey ground home wise again. Fortunately Sandra, home and heart broken, manages to trace her mare and buys her back for a song. Fairest remembers her old mistress and quickly forgets her unpleasant experiences. Sandra sets about schooling her once more and getting her fit to hunt. It is during a fittening hack that Sandra and fairest stumble across an orphan foal, later named Pixie, and take the little fella home with them. He is weak but pulls through and when his owner is traced he gifts the foal to Sandra, to her utter delight! Meanwhile Sandra and fairest have some wonderful hunts, including one eventful day where she Perseus a loose horse for many miles but makes a new friend. This new friend later first puts the idea in Sandra's head that her little mare, despite being under 15hh is fast enough and a good enough jumper to Point to point. An idea Sandra embraces with relish! After a successful day at a local gymkhana, Sandra sets her sights a little higher, on the open jumping and Ladies race (point to point) at an upcoming horse show and begins training in earnest. Initially she keeps it a secret from her parents, afraid of their reaction, but a fall during training, arouses suspicion in her Father who later gives his permission to enter. He also allows her to drop her studies in favour of the intensive training she will need to partake in to get fairest fit and ready. A potentially fatal incident occurs during a beach trip but gallant Fairest saves the day and the storey culminates on the glorious show day when Sandra not only wins the open jumping but also the ladies race against renown and very experienced competition.

Quite absorbing and beautifully written. You won't be surprised to hear the author was only 15 years old when she wrote this and it shows in the story, I would hazard a guess that this book was all of Ms Knott's horsey dreams come true? Not many people are lucky enough to trace their stolen animals, let alone have the good fortune to find and be given a foal (who incidentally has no relation really to the story at all, apart from I would guess the young author wanted a foal). The hunting, showing success, jumping and point to point win are also all very much a youngsters idealistic dream of owning a horse. And being able to give up her studies...well wonderful as a child...but as an adult you quickly realise how important education is! So this just has to be another childhood dream?

One thing that really does jump out at you is how times have changed. Sandra goes off to persue a runaway, out hunting, and finds herself invited to stay over, when darkness fell, at a fellow followers family home. This overnight stay the following day turns into a few days. Can you imagine in this day and age a child stopping at the home of a complete stranger overnight let alone for several days. Also she is taken home and dried off after her beach escapade by another complete stranger (male...sadly in this day and age I am sure it would be only too sinister to consider) and again this is considered quite the norm. In fact the character is shocked she has not stopped and knocked on anyones door to get dried off etc.....imagine now even knocking on a door in your street and the response you would most likely get.
The book is further enhanced by one of my personal favourite dust wrapper illustrations. The pony is exquisite, it is a shame the rider, very nicely drawn, is rather ham-fistedly holding the reins incorrectly with her foot right at home in the stirrup. Unfortunately the inside illustrations are rather a let down more often than not and it's hard to believe the same person is responsible for them all......illustrator is uncredited in my (presumed) 1st ed so i would be interested if anyone can shed any light on to whom deserves credit (or not)?

Thursday, 20 December 2007

Settled in

I can't believe that a year ago today Jadey was spending her last night of a 3 month stint in the kennels with the RSPCA. Why no one wanted to give her a home is almost an even bigger mystery than her past but on the other hand she wouldn't be with us now if someone had wanted her so it's swings and roundabouts I guess.

I think it's safe to say she feels at home and has her feet well under the table....we had to laugh at her the other evening......she came into the back room, after a day at mums , where we tend to watch TV, eat etc.....we have a 'posh' living room we never go in but that's beside the point (and it wouldn't stay smart for long!)....she walked over to her bed, stood there a few seconds, fair shook her head and no doubt muttered to herself 'Jadeygirl what you doing!' did a prompt u turn and took up residence in her favourite spot.

Only problem it's a two seater and she often requires one and bit!

Monday, 17 December 2007

School days heaven????

No Ponies For Miss Pobjoy

This was recommend by Jane Badger, as 'it's mad'. And mad it is!

However, Canterdown sounds like my sort of school. The most important lesson of the day being...why ponies of course....that is until Miss Pobjoy (The killjoy, the hobbledehoy, Miss Mighty Academic Pobjoy) takes over the reins. A fast car, rather than horse fanatic, she delivers the ultimate blow, that is to be the last term the girls may bring their ponies to Canterdown and banishes Bella the donkey from the ponies fields. Being reasonable human beings, and somewhat obsessed with equines, the girls decide something must be done about it and rebel with quite hilarious (and totally off the wall bonkers) results. Ponies in the dormitories are only the start!

However there is a twist in the tale and in true pony book fashion there is a happy ending all round. I think 'it's mad' is probably the only way to describe this somewhat unique school/pony story.......seeing as it came from an author who created the wonderful Bogwoppits it's hardly surprising!

Now why aren't all schools like Canterdown?

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

A Good day

Well it was better than yesterday and started with an xmas play so can't be that bad really!

Plus my copy of the Mandrake arrived, Sabre arrived saturday so only need Crab now. Was very happy as Mandrake is in immaculate condition and as a bonus came with a good jacket when I wasn't expecting one! Lionel Edwards illustrations are just stunning...I am deeply jealous of anyone who can draw...I struggle with stick people.....his horses could just stroll out of the page and he also draws people well too as some authors seem to do one or the other.
Then i have just found a reasonably priced copy of Unforgettable Fifth at Trebizon to top it off. But have been here before and last time it had sold but have seen another reasonably priced copy and there is one on ebay tomorrow too so hopefully one of them will have my name on it! Getting a bit worried actually as although buying pony books, it's the non ponies I am reading. Currently doing Bogwoppit before it moves to a new home. I might try her pony books next as had forgotten what a good story teller she is. Ah but which one.....?

Friday, 7 December 2007

I'm a happy bunny. I've just bought copies of Sabre the Horse From the Sea and the Mandrake....just need Crab now! To think I passed over one about a year ago because it was £20....and one just made £50 on EBay. Never Mind.

Posted a book to Japan, of all places, today (a PT sisters one), which got me thinking about pony book collectors around the world. I cannot imagine there being much of a market for vintage pony books in Japan, but could be very wrong. I know there are loads of collectors in Australia and America, and both these countries like the UK have a high volume of home grown, if you like, pony book authors past and present. However it does seem that the vintage English books fill a high percentage of spaces in the most collected books category, along with Elyne Mitchell's Brumby books of course. There would appear to be or have been a large German market for English pony authors too as many of our scarcer titles are available in German for pennies (if only they'd take pay pal that is?) and I have seen Swedish editions of Primrose Cumming and Elyne Mitchell books but do we have any translated works ourselves? I cannot think of any off hand. I am intrigued now as to whether any other nationalities around the world have a passion for children's pony books too.

Just thought...of course we have at least one translated book...A Pony In The Luggage, which I loved when younger. Winning a pony in a lottery, if I remember correctly, and then hiding it in hotels and on a train....before it ends up residing in the garage.......utter madness but very enjoyable! I think the characters were called Nicholas ans Anna and the pony Danny, but whether these were changed or not is debatable. Danny in particular dosen't appear very Swedish to me?

Must say it's the vintage English books for me every time, although there are some wonderful Austrailian stories, not least Elyne Mitchell's but also Mary Patchett and I like Eugeme Lumbers Blue Ribbon and Waminda (Helen Barratt?) too. The American books on the whole didn't do it for me although there again I love Can I get there By Candlelight by Jean Slaughter Doty.