Thursday, 31 July 2014

PBOTD 31st July: Marguerite Henry - Stormy, Misty's Foal

I love this cover too. For years, I thought Misty was actually called Stormy Misty, although I'd read the actual book more than enough times to know that wasn't the case.

Armada, 1968
This story was based on real-live events. When a hurricane struck in the 1960s, both Chincoteague and Assateague were evacuated. The ponies couldn't all be evacuated, so Grandpa Beebe brought them into the barn on top of their hay pile and put Misty, now in foal, inside the Beebe house and hoped for the
best. The Beebe ponies survived and Misty foaled safely but many of the Assateague herd perished in the storm.

Rand McNally, 1963
Internal illustration from the original
At the annual auction, some of the ponies are tagged as "Buy Backs". They are still put into the auction, but they return to the island to breed. The winning bidder gets to name the pony, and these Buy Back ponies sometimes achieve the highest auction prices. 

If you are a pony-loving American child who can't afford a pony, the Feather Fund helps deserving children buy a pony at the auction. Carollynn Suplee came to Chincoteague every year until her death in 2003 to help children buy ponies, and the Feather Fund was set up in her memory. 

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The Pony Penning and Swim
More on Marguerite Henry
The Feather Fund

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

PBOTD 30th July: Marguerite Henry - Misty of Chincoteague

Armada, whose coveres have been getting a bit of a psting from me over the past few days, did do some lovely ones too. I'm particularly fond of the ones they did for the Marguerite Henry titles they published (King of the Wind, Sea Star, Stormy - Misty's Foal, and Misty). The Armada version below is the one I had. I actually prefer the cover illustration to the Wesley Dennis original (heresy), though the Armada version did keep the black and white illustrations of the original.

The main point of the Misty stories is the annual Pony Penning and swim that takes place every year, when the ponies are swum from Assateague Island to the island of Chincoteague. In the few days before the swim, the ponies are gathered into corrals, and then swum over. They are then rested, and the foals go to auction. This is a fundraiser for the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company.

Collins, London, 1961

The swim has been going on for nearly ninety years, but it became well known when Marguerite Henry wrote about it in Misty of Chincoteague (1947). 

Endpapers of the hardback edition

The Beebe children, Paul and Maureen long for a pony of their own, and follow the wild mare Phantom, who has a foal, Misty. They rescue Phantom but have to let her go when she cannot settle. Misty, however, becomes the foundation of a line of ponies kept by the Beebes.

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The Pony Penning and Swim
More on Marguerite Henry

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

PBOTD 28th July : Josephine Pullein-Thompson - Pony Club Team

Today's PBOTD is the first of a (probably) brief series on the sort of book cover you hope your over-protective mother will never see: those in which the hero or heroine falls off. I would think this is a cover subject that's had its day, as the only cover you get these days is the photo cover, and I simply can't imagine a publisher wanting to navigate the shark-filled waters of health and safety necessary to get a shot of someone falling off. So, make the most of these (there will be a break in the next couple of days to accommodate a rather special event in the US equine calendar).

Josephine Pullein-Thompson did quite well for falls. Besides Christopher heading rapidly for earth on the cover of the 1970s printing of Pony Club Team, there's also a dramatic fall in the same era's Armada Six Ponies. Christopher's fall is quite dramatic. Fireworks is one of those ponies who has only to see a jumping pole to go completely beserk. He is not a novice ride, and Christopher, when we first see him, is a novice. He has some very dicey moments with Fireworks, but this is probably the best, because it happens when the Major's off out, and the Pony Club decide to do their own thing. Never to that, Pony Clubbers, because it will only lead to disaster. 

The book didn't start off focussing on the dark side: here's the first edition cover.

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Monday, 28 July 2014

Review: Olivia Tuffin – The Palomino Pony Comes Home

The child of a single parent family seems to be the go-to heroine of pony books today, and so it is for Georgia. Her father has left, and Georgia spends most of her time at a local stables. Her mum thought it would be a distraction, and it is. Ponies are Georgia’s whole world. She gets rides in exchange for helping out, because there isn’t enough money for riding lessons, let alone a pony of her own. Ponies are so very much Georgia’s world that revision for exams somehow doesn’t quite happen, and after she fails the end of year exams catastrophically, she’s sent off by the school for an intensive week away in Wales.

This works out rather better than Georgia thinks it will: firstly Dan Coleman is on the course too, and he turns out to be a lot nicer than she thought he was. And secondly, Georgia finds a beautiful palomino Welsh pony in a field. The pony is due to be sold, but Georgia persuades Melanie, the owner of the stables where she rides, to take a punt on the pony. She had been given to her breeder’s grand daughter, Jemma, but Jemma is both violent and vicious and the grandfather takes the pony back. After much drama, Melanie buys the pony.  Jemma is determined to get Lily, the pony, back, and Georgia is even more determined not to let her.

This is a nicely written story, with attractive characters and a plot which will not horrify its young readers with anything too dark or difficult, and certainly nothing unexpected. The plot proceeds exactly as you think it will. It’s a good, escapist summer read for the 11-12s -  there’s just enough romance to make the book exciting, but it’s not a book that I think will suit most teenagers. Georgia does read a very young fourteen.

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Thank you to the publisher for sending me a copy of this book

Olivia Tuffin: The Palomino Pony Comes Home
Nosy Crow, 2014: £5.99
Kindle £3.59, Kobo £4.91

Age of main character: 14
Themes: mistreatment of ponies (not too graphic), some romance

PBOTD 28th July: Mary Gervaise - The Secret of Pony Pass

PBOTD for 28th July is Mary Gervaise's The Secret of Pony Pass. This is the last in the G for Georgia series, and was published in 1965. I have been hammering Armada in recent posts for their covers, but the Armada reprint of this title isn't all that bad, by comparison. It's a relatively inoffensive photo cover, but the original by John Raynes is another of those hang on to the pony's mouth efforts.

In fact, it's one of those pictures where you can play spot the fault to your heart's content. No hat, for one thing, elbows out, stirrups way too short....

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More on Mary Gervaise

Sunday, 27 July 2014

PBOTD 27th July: Judith M Berrisford - Jackie and the Pony Boys

PBOTD for 27th July is another from the rich seam of duff Armada covers. It's Judith M Berrisford's Jackie and the Pony Boys. This cover is a particularly awful example of the backward seat - why Misty has her ears forward I simply do not know. Could there be any more weight dragging on that poor pony's mouth?

Hang on to that pony's mouth Jackie! Her ears are forward - she doesn't mind a bit!

Saturday, 26 July 2014

PBOTD 26th July: Christine Pullein-Thompson - Riders from Afar

The PBOTD for 26th July is Christine Pullein-Thompson's Riders From Afar. Originally published in 1954, this was one of Christine Pullein-Thompson's earlier books. It's set at a castle, lived in by a poverty-stricken family who are renting the castle to an American family for the summer to raise money. The children are not looking forward to this at all, but the Americans prove to be a pretty decent lot.

The original had one of Charlotte Hough's more wispy covers, but it suffered a little when it was reprinted in paperback by Armada. Armada's cover artists visited some pretty horrible riding efforts on the pony book reading public in the 1960s, and this is one of them. It's particularly ironic if you bear in mind how agin the backward seat the Pullein-Thompsons were.

As an image, I do like this cover: it has Mary Gernat's characteristic energy. It's just a shame about the backward seat. And I do wonder quite what happened next - did the pony recover and jump the five bar gate? Or was there a terrible kerfuffle as he slammed into it?

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More on Christine Pullein-Thompson
More on Mary Gernat

Friday, 25 July 2014

PBOTD 25th July: Diana Pullein-Thompson - Horses at Home/Friends Must Part

Now the Royal Welsh is over, I'm moving on to a series which was inspired by the recent series I did on bad pony book covers. This book, and those for the next few days, show bad riding; or at least riding practices that are now out of date. If you have any particular favourites you think I should feature, do let me know. I have a few beauties lined up but there's room for more.

I'm starting fairly gently with Diana Pullein-Thompson's Horses at Home/Friends Must Part (1954). This is an unusual book, made up of two novellas. The original dustjacket, by Sheila Rose, shows the lower leg position I was taught as a child, and which I have spent the rest of my riding life fighting. 

You must just be able to see the tip of your toe, I was taught. Grip with your knees. You must be able to keep a penny between your knees and the saddle. I was taught to ride in the late 1960s, and even then this style was really more extant in the show ring than anywhere else. The Pullein-Thompsons had been teaching another way since the 1940s. It must have hurt to have seen some of the cover images that appeared on their books, but it's a rare author who has any control over their cover images.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

PBOTD 24th July: Judith M Berrisford - Jackie and the Pony Trekkers

I can't do a series on Welsh ponies without featuring the uber Welsh pony of the pony book world: Judith M Berrisford's Misty. Misty is the pony Jacqueline Hope wins in a competition, and who stars with her in a sixteen book series that was for decades the longest British pony series.

Jackie and the Pony Trekkers (1963) sees Jackie and Misty, and Jackie's cousin Babs, embark on their usual holiday adventure away from their family. Jackie and Babs are off to help at a pony trekking centre in Wales. Although Jackie and Babs constantly want to help, their efforts always meet with failure, at least to start with, and so it goes with Jackie and the Pony Trekkers. Misty is denounced as a kicker, and Jackie and Babs get the blame for anything and everything that goes wrong after that: and a lot does go wrong.

As ever, they manage to redeem themselves at last.

The Jackie series:
Jackie Won a Pony, 1958
Ten Ponies and Jackie, 1959
Jackie’s Pony Patrol, 1961
Jackie and the Pony Trekkers, 1963
Jackie’s Pony Camp Summer, 1968
Jackie and the Pony Boys, 1970
Jackie’s Show Jumping Surprise, 1973
Jackie and the Misfit Pony, 1976
Jackie on Pony Island, 1977
Jackie and the Pony Thieves, 1978
Jackie and the Phantom Ponies, 1979
Jackie and the Moonlight Pony, 1980
Jackie and the Pony Rivals, 1981
Jackie and the Missing Showjumper, 1982
Change Ponies, Jackie! 1983
Jackie’s Steeplechase Adventure, 1984
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More on Judith M Berrisford
The Royal Welsh Show

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

PBOTD 23rd July: Paul Brown - Silver Heels

The Welsh pony is just as loved in America as he is in the UK, and he features in several American pony stories. Probably the most beautiful of them is Paul Brown's Silver Heels (1951). It's the story of a part Welsh pony who was a natural jumper, and who felt it was his duty to join every fox hunt. When he heard the hounds, there was no keeping the pony in, no matter where you'd put him.

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More on Paul Brown
The Royal Welsh Show

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

PBOTD 22nd July: Allen Seaby - Mona the Welsh Pony

The PBOTD continues to focus on the Welsh pony. The Welsh pony, almost uniquely, is a British breed which is not endangered. Virtually all other British breeds of pony are, with the exception of the Shetland, who is probably too bloody minded to become rare. When I think back to the ponies I rode in my youth, most of them were of ancestry so mixed it would have been hard to identify anything, but those who laid claim to an actual breed were all Welsh. 

The very first pony I rode, Dandini, or Dini for short, was Welsh. He was white all over, though I very soon learned that it was heresy to call him that, and that I should call him grey, which I did ever afterwards, carefully correcting anyone who made the mistake of calling him white. How they must have loved me. Dini had the pony's usual attitude to learners: a casual cynicism. He put up with learners, because the alternative, being given over to children with greater aspirations than simply staying on, would have involved far too much energy. I can vividly remember my pathetic efforts to get Dini to do what I wanted. They almost all failed. Dini would go his own sweet way, deaf to my small heels drumming on his side, and just as deaf to the riding school owner's shouts. 

I remember she once, in fury, got on Dini herself, and I remember how, with ears pinned flat against his head, and an expression of suppressed fury on his face (someone would suffer for this, he just hadn't worked out who) he gave a very creditable effort at a collected trot, showing that there might, after all, have been some credence in the tales that he'd been, in a former life, a successful show pony.

Fortunately I soon outgrew Dini, and he settled into being a leading rein pony, drifiting almost asleep round the school, propping himself up on whatever hapless child had been seconded into leading him for that particular lesson. The last time I rode Dini was when another child was turfed off, and I was told to get on him and get him over a (very small) jump. With a total lack of style, heels drumming and with sheer determination, I got him over it. The instructor turned to the poor child who'd been turfed off and told her that was how you did it, but we all knew it wasn't. I'd got lucky, and caught Dini by surprise.

Mona, in Allen Seaby's Mona the Welsh Pony (1948) is another in his series of pony stories welded on to natural history. Fortunately this Mona is nothing like Dini. 

Mona is born on the Welsh hills, and Evan Evans decides he will catch her. She soon fits into life on the farm, and her training begins. Evan Evans goes off to war, and Mona eventually goes to be a sands pony. This book, as can sadly some others of the period, does show a very young pony indeed being broken in. Times do change, but even at the time, this was considered young.

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More on Allen Seaby
The Royal Welsh Show

Monday, 21 July 2014

PBOTD 21st July: Cecilia Knowles - Hippo, a Welsh Cob

The PBOTDs for the next few days are to celebrate the fact it's the Royal Welsh show, so they will all (this will surprise you) feature Welsh ponies. Or cobs. Today's book is Hippo, a Welsh Cob (1960).

Evans, 1960, illus Juliette Palmer

Hippo is a black (mostly) Welsh cob, bred by the Rivers family. They break Hippo in, but the children grow too tall for him, so Hippo is sold to Lord Elsted and his daughter Daphne. Daphne too loves him and rides him with the vim that Hippo deserves. Alas she too grows too tall to him, so on he goes to Francis and Felicity, where he is taught to be a driving pony. Once again outgrown, Hippo goes to Leila. Initially all goes well, but then her father inherits estates in Scotland and Hippo is sent North, despite Leila having promised if she ever wants to part with Hippo she will sell him back to Francis and Felicity. Hippo humiliates Leila’s father by bolting with the lunches when he is acting as a shooting pony, and he is given to a local farmer and neglected. Francis and Felicity manage to find him again, and buy him in exchange for a crate of whiskey. Hippo is by then elderly and frail, but is nursed back to health.

Hippo was based on a real pony. The dedication in Hippo reads: “This book, about a real pony, is dedicated to my son, daughter, and son-in-law. To Basil who loved and rode him, to Barbara who drove him and eventually got him back into the family, and to her husband David, who, christening him “The Immortal” has kept him in happiness for many years.”

Cecilia Knowles has the knack of observing ponies and writing about them as they actually are, without anthropomorphising them, and Hippo is well above the usual pony biography.

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More on Cecilia Knowles
The Royal Welsh Show

Sunday, 20 July 2014

PBOTD 20th July: Carolyn Henderson - The Grey Ghost

Grey Ghost was Carolyn Henderson's first work of fiction. It was published in 1992. Carolyn has not stood still since then: she's written over 30 non fiction titles on the horse, ranging from children's books for Dorling Kindersley to works on showing for J A Allen (including a book on showing written with Katie Jerram).

The Grey Ghost is one of the earliest incursions into pony book fantasy. Heroine Corinne finds a plaque with Grey Ghost’s name on it in the tack room of an old house. Corrine’s riding school is threatened with closure, so she’s not sure if she’ll be able to keep up riding. Her father is long absent, and Corinne wants to trace him, but will this cause even more problems with her mother?

It'll be interesting to see how this dream-come-true story matches up with Carolyn's latest book, which will be a coming of age story aimed at teenagers. Published by new equestrian fiction house Forelock, it's called Beside Me. 

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More on the J A Allen Junior Equestrian Fiction Library
Carolyn Henderson's website

Saturday, 19 July 2014

PBOTD 19th July: Susan Millard - Against the Odds

Today's PBOTD was a brave book for J A Allen to publish: the pony book can often shy away from the darker side of life, but Against the Odds doesn't.  Against the Odds’ heroine, Sian, leaves home to work in a racing stable, but she soon finds that the trainer’s son Justin, after the initial attraction, has a vicious, ruthless side when he rapes her. This is not described explicitly in the book, but it is quite clear what has happened, so if you’re buying this book for a child, make sure they can cope.

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More on Susan Millard
More on the J A Allen Junior Fiction Library

Friday, 18 July 2014

PBOTD 18th July: Mary Sharp - The Second Best Pony

Today's PBOTD is another in the J A Allen series. It's Mary Sharp's Second-Best Pony. It was published in 1993, and was the first of the two titles Mary Sharp wrote for the series.

It's unusual in that it features a Fell pony - not a breed which often elbows its way into pony books. There's any number of Welsh ponies, and New Forest, but not so many Fells. At least there are Fells - its cousin the Dales has virtually nothing.

Second-Best Pony is about Becky, who is going on a pony trekking holiday in the Lake District. It should all have been wonderful, but then Becky and her friend Emma manage to lose Storm, a valuable pony, and Becky sets off into the mountains alone to try and find him.
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More on Mary Sharp
More on the J A Allen Junior Fiction Library

Thursday, 17 July 2014

PBOTD 17th July - Caroline Akrill - The Silver Bridle

Today's PBOTD is another in the J A Allen Equestrian Fiction series. I am cheating a bit to call this a PBOTD, because The Silver Bridle is actually all three books of Caroline Akrill's Grace Darling series, about an actress who gets a part by claiming she can ride. She can't, and is shipped off for a crash course.

Not only that, she has to convince her back home boyfriend and her family that she can act and isn’t
wasting her time until she does the dutiful thing, and marries and settles down. Grace arrives at Moat Farm Stables for a four week riding course. Her instructor seems on another planet, and the farm’s owner has met Grace before and didn’t like what he saw. Grace does, of course, learn to ride, and she also learns that her back home boyfriend doesn't really have her best interests at heart. In the last part of the trilogy, the production of The Hooves of the Horses, the TV series in which Grace has
a leading role, starts filming, but the production is hit by one disaster after another.
Make Me a Star
Grafton Books (Collins), London, hb, 1986, 107 pp, left
Dragon, pb, 1987
Armada, pb, 1988 right
As part of Silver Bridle trilogy, J A Allen, pb, 1993, 305 pp.

Grace, an actress, gets a role in a TV series.  The one problem she has is that
she’s supposed to be able to ride, and she can’t.  So, she has to learn, as well
as convince her back home boyfriend and her family that she can act and isn’t
wasting her time until she settles down.
Stars Don’t Cry
Collins, London, 1987, 109 pp, left
Armada, London, 1988, right (this is stated as first edition)
As part of Silver Bridle trilogy, J A Allen, pb, 1993, 305 pp.

Grace arrives at Moat Farm Stables for a four week riding course.  Her
instructor seems on another planet, and the farm’s owner has met Grace
before and didn’t like what he saw.

Catch a Falling Star
Armada, London, 1988 (stated first edition), 111pp.
As part of Silver Bridle trilogy, J A Allen, pb, 1993, 305 pp.

At last the production of The Hooves of the Horses, the TV series in which Grace has
a leading role, has started filming.  The production is hit by one disaster after another.

The Silver Bridle trilogy of novels was a complete change of direction after Caroline's much darker Flying Changes, which sees Oliver Jasny, dressage hero, kill himself. Collins commissioned Caroline to write a trilogy on horses and acting, to go with Peter Aykroyd’s Gymnast Gilly trilogy, and a ballet trilogy. Although Caroline didn’t have any stage experience herself - “I don’t think I have an inner actress, but my daughter went to stage school so it must be in the genes somewhere!” she was able to draw on a lot of expertise. K M Peyton’s Flambards stories had been made into a television series, and she and Christine McKenna, who played the lead, Christina, gave her a lot of technical background. 

“Chrissie helped with some of the technical acting bits & location work, as did Kathleen. Howard King is a lighting engineer and he took me on a tour of ‘television city’ and gave lots of advice on filming and lighting. John Cotton, my cousin, introduced me to Howard. Anthony Stafford, another cousin (an actor) read bits for authenticity, and Sylvia Stanier, a dear friend, trained horses for film & circus work and advised on that.” 

Like Caroline’s other stories, the Silver Bridle stories have a classic romantic hero in Anthony, owner of the Moat Farm Stables where Grace is sent to learn to ride. Romance is something that now it is very difficult to publish a pony book for teenagers without. How times have changed. When Josephine Pullein-Thompson wrote Pony Club Camp, in 1957, in which Noel and Henry probably – it isn’t actually definite – kiss, very chastely, right at the end of the book, her publishers, Collins, were horrified, and told Josephine to write no more of the series. How times had changed by the 1980s. Was there any difficulty with having romance in the series, I asked? 

“I was actively encouraged to get into the romance in the novels,” Caroline said. “I think things have moved on since the Pullein-Thompsons, and look how Harry Potter has grown up!”

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More on J A Allen's pony book library
Caroline Akrill on the Silver Bridle series
More on Caroline Akrill

PBOTD - 13th July - 16th July

Apologies for my total inefficiency - been on holiday and completely mucked up the scheduling, so I've combined the PBOTDs for the past few days. As you'll have probably noticed, the current series is all about the J A Allen Junior Equestrian Fiction series.

This series was started in the late 1980s by Caroline Akrill, already a well-known equestrian author and journalist. She became J A Allen's Chief Executive, and started a project to produce pony books which could stand on their own as decent pieces of literature. “Allen had always been about quality", she said, "and we wanted to elevate the status of the pony novel, engaging the top writers, the best illustrators and with our usual high production standards.”

Some of the titles were reprints (notably Christine Pullein-Thompson's Chill Valley Hounds series, which she updated for Allen), but most titles were specially commissioned. They included Mary Sharp's Dream Horse.

Jane Ayres, well known now for her work for Stabenfeldt, wrote The Great Horse Rescue for Allen, featuring what became something of a motif from the 1970s onwards in the pony book: the loss of stables and land to development.

Another author who contributed several titles to Stablenfeldt's pony series was Pamela Kavanagh, but her first work was for J A Allen. The Pony Swap looks at what happens when you try and see if the grass really is greener on the other side of the fence.

The last of this little selection is The Red Horse Haunting, by Ann Wigley. The J A Allen series stopped, in part, because libraries were then not buying what they saw as elitist fiction, but ironically my first copy of this book was a chuck out from our local library. In Northamptonshire, at least, we had taste. The Red Horse Haunting is a well-written book with a dose of ghostly goings on.

 As well as libraries not stocking the books, chains didn't stock them either, due Caroline thinks, to J A Allen's status as a niche publisher. Although J A Allen’s experiment did not succeed, the process was exhilarating, and has left a legacy of fine pony books. Caroline Akrill said: 

"We had a lot of fun doing the series, persuading established writers (like the P-T sisters) to write new books for us and reading a tremendous amount of unsolicited pony fiction to find new talent. I don’t regret it in the least and although perhaps the least successful of our projects, it remains the one we enjoyed the most and are still proud of!”

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More on the J A Allen Junior Equestrian Fiction series

Friday, 11 July 2014

PBOTD 11th July: a Collection of Wonders

We're now half way through the pony book year, and as a rather perverse sort of celebration, here's a gathering of pony book covers that are, shall we say, less than successful. These covers are all from books I've already featured, and that regular villain of cover illustration, the Children's Book Club, features again. Here they are with Monica Dicken's Cobbler's Dream. As so often with CBC, the background is lovely: the horses alas, not so much.

Michael Joseph first edn
CBC reprint

Paperback reprints often sinned. Joanna Cannan's A Pony for Jean survived several reprints until Knight decided to go all contemporary in the 1970s. Neither Anne Bullen nor the perfectly workmanlike early seventies covers survived. These went:

and this is what came in. Marvel at the weird perspective, and the purple fringing which would give any Pony Club District Commissioner heart failure:

K M Peyton did a fine job of illustrating her own books. Here's her cover for the brilliant The Team.

CBC, again, are responsible for this:

And then there's the plain disturbing. If you're clown-phobic, look away now.

There, that's better, isn't it? It's the first edition cover by Geoffrey Whittam.

That's the end of this series of PBOTDs. Many thanks to everyone who suggested books for inclusion here. If you have ones you particularly loathe that you think I should know about, do let me know in the comments. I think I will be able to gather the mental strength to do a couple more posts on them. There's still six months of the year to fill.

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Thursday, 10 July 2014

PBOTD 10th July: Mary Elwyn Patchett - Come Home Brumby

Mary Elwyn Patchett's Summer on Wild Horse Island featured in an earlier PBOTD, another victim of dodgy cover art. Here's the original, printed by Lutterworth in 1961, which whilst it's not a vision of beauty conjure up something of the spirit of the book, And I like the rainbow effect with the colour banding.

Puffin, who usually did lovely covers, including a cracker for the predecessor to this book, The Brumby, rather fell at the first fence with this 1972 reprint.

Just as a contrast, here's Puffin's beautiful version of The Brumby.

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More on Mary Elwyn Patchett

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

PBOTD 9th July: Vian Smith - Come Down the Mountain

Vian Smith's Come Down the Mountain is a book of which I am extremely fond. It's the story of a girl who's a misfit at school and in her village, but who's brave enough to do what she thinks is right in defiance of her community. There's a thoroughbred horse who lives in a field at the end of the village, who was owned by an eccentric landowner on whom the entire village's livelihoods depend. He dies, and nothing's done with the horse and no one is brave enough to do anything about him, until Brenda decides to act.

Here's the first edition, with cover illustration by Elisabeth Grant. It was published in 1967.

The American edition, published by Doubleday in 1967, doesn't have anything obviously horsey about it at all, but the backward leaning houses seem to suggest the buttoned up refusal of the village to challenge accepted mores.

And here's a reprint, by Viking, which I also like. It was published in 1980. 

And then there's this. If you subtract the terrible horse, the child is rather well done, and the background is good too, but the horse, oh, the horse.

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More on Vian Smith

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

PBOTD 8th July: Vian Smith - The Horses of Petrock

Sometimes reprints of a work serve a book better than the original. Here's The Horses of Petrock, in its first edition, published by Constable Young Books:

and here's the American reprint. America was much keener on Vian Smith's works than his native UK, and printed one that never appeared in Britain, Green Heart. Most of the American reprints were retitled, as was The Horses of Petrock. Here's the American version, which was printed by Doubleday in New York in 1966.

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More on Vian Smith

Monday, 7 July 2014

PBOTD 7th July: Diana Pullein-Thompson - The Hermit's Horse

The Hermit's Horse is an unusual pony story, as it involves a character with a serious mental illness. Matthew and Sophie are not supposed to go near the hermit's house, and until he acquires a large bay horse, they don't. This is a story which doesn't have an easy ending, but it's well worth reading.

The original was illustrated by a photograph of Diana Pullein-Thompson's children, and does at least portray some of the major elements of the story.

Armada 1974
The Severn House edition, however, features the one of the saddest photographs of a horse I've seen. I wonder if that was what was wanted: a horse readers would feel sorry for and want to rescue. For me, it's just offputting. The horse looks miserable, but not in need of rescue.

Severn House, 1985

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More on Diana Pullein-Thompson

Sunday, 6 July 2014

PBOTD 6th July: Kathleen Mackenzie - Nigel Rides Away

There are some books which only every go into one edition, which when you are Kathleen Mackenzie's Nigel Rides Away, is a shame.

I don't know if Violet Morgan, who did the internal illustrations, was responsible for this. It doesn't look much like her work. Violet Morgan, incidentally, was one of Kathleen Mackenzie's sisters, and she illustrated most of her books.

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More on Kathleen Mackenzie

Saturday, 5 July 2014

PBOTD 5th July: Kathleen Mackenzie - Prize Pony

The Children's Book Club strikes again..... Here's the rather lovely cover of the first edition of Prize Pony, which was published in 1959 with a cover by Ann Gordon:

If any cover ought to appeal to the current love for all things vintage, it's this one, with it's beautiful girl in her simple frock, the vast teas and ices tent, the stalls (I'm sure there's bunting) and the general air of rural jollity.

And then there's the Children's Book Club edition:

There's some very odd stuff going on in the background.

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More on Kathleen Mackenzie

Friday, 4 July 2014

Review: K M Peyton – All That Glitters

After K M Peyton’s long and illustrious writing career, no one could blame her for deciding to hurl her pen across the desk and spend the rest of her life in her garden. But she hasn’t: after her semi-autobiographical When the Sirens Sounded, she’s returned to children’s literature with All That Glitters. Out of all K M Peyton’s recent stories, this is the one I’ve enjoyed the most. It’s written with a much lighter touch than most of her books: the passion has been blended with humour.

The book is still full of the usual Peyton deftness with description and characterisation. Millie Hodge is a farmer’s daughter. Home life is clouded by her father’s constant bad temper as he wrestles with having a farm which is split over a very busy main road, a road which means the livery stables just down the road can’t ever ride out that way. Millie spends most of her time at the stables, helping her friend Imogen, who has a pony. Millie doesn’t have a pony. If she wanted a cow, she could have one of those, because her father loves his cows with a passion.

And then, one day, Millie finds a pony. He’s not a pretty pony – he’s neglected, and there is no swan under the hairy exterior, just an ordinary, not very well bred pony. Bluebell has the temperament of a saint, and no one seems interested in claiming him, but there are plenty of other problems in the offing. The owner of the livery stables, Miss Brocklebank, lets the few girls who use the stables do pretty well what they want. Her one obsession is her garden. Her cottage is about to fall down, and the stables are not much better. Miss Brocklebank, however, has a niece, who has done rather well out of her divorce settlement, and she’s determined to start up a smart new livery yard at her aunt’s premises, a yard which will be dedicated to dressage.

Hairy ponies who look as if they came off the side of the road are not a part of this bright new order, but Imogen and Millie manage to wangle a stay of execution. They come to a rather uneasy peace with Miss Brocklebank’s niece, Polly Pouter, and then the rains come.

What happens next solves problems in some ways I certainly didn’t predict, and also allows Millie’s brother to shine.  All this is mixed up with some side swipes on the entertainment value of dressage when compared to that of two hairy ponies who look as if they’ve come off the side of the road, and an interesting cast of characters. I liked Imogen, who’s a pain at school but who gets away with it because she is loaded with brains and the school want to bask in the reflected glory when she gets to Oxbridge. And then there’s Amy, who in the battle for her mother’s attentions, doesn’t even get as far as the starting gate, and for whom the recommended therapy is a horse; a horse who makes the earlier Fly-by-Night look positively stately.

I get the feeling that with this book, K M Peyton’s probably written the book she’s wanted to write for some years. The whole thing has a feeling of relaxation, and amusement about it. If you want, you can draw out plenty of things the author has something to say about: the devastating effect of roads on communities, the even more devastating effect of parental selfishness, and the way fortune descends on the just and the unjust alike. It’s a great, entertaining read, which fits none of the pony book tropes so popular at the moment: there’s no major competitions, epic demonstrations of skill or careful lessons from the horsey elite; in fact the book sends all these things up.

And I can bang one of my own particular drums here, and say there are some books which defy what major publishers think should be popular, and this is one. All kudos to Forelock for bringing out what is one of my favourite reads so far this year.

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K M Peyton: All That Glitters
Forelock Books, 2014, £9.99
Age of main character: 13 (possibly)

Themes: family difficulties, flooding