Friday, 26 November 2010
JANE AND PAUL ANNIXTER
FREIDA K. BROWN
MARY AND CONRAD BUFF
ELIZABETH BLEEKER MEIGS
ROBERT NEWTON PECK
D. L. RODRIGUEZ
Find out more about them on the ponymadbooklovers authors and info page
Sunday, 7 November 2010
ELISABETH HUBBARD LANSING
J. PAUL LOOMIS
ANNE LOUISE MACDONALD
MIRIAM E. MASON
MILDRED MASTIN PACE
JAMES ROBERT RICHARD
LENORA M. WEBER
These are just the ones I have added in the last week, since posting my last 'authors added' blog I have actually added lots more (just didn't get the time to put them on here) so do check out the book and author information page on the website to see all the authors I have available.
Thursday, 28 October 2010
There are 12 spooky pics to be found on the website and chat forum, each with an accompanying letter. Collect all 12 and rearrange the letters to form the title of a Halloween themed book. Send the title of the book and the name of the author to me by PM or email. First correct answer received will win a choccy pumpkin (UK only due to customs regs sorry). Also all correct entries from folk who are taking part in the Pumble Farm comp will win rosettes and money.
There may be a few red-herrings scattered around too with no accompanying letters, just to annoy you!
Comp starts at 12 noon today and will finish at midnight on 31st October.
Just to get you started....
Tuesday, 14 September 2010
To read the first part of the Stabenfeldt review please click here
In this second instalment, I was once more impressed with most of the books, although not all. So now lets look at a selection of them:
Angela Dorsey - Horse Angel series
SUMMARY: A 'series' of stand-alone stories linked by the character of Angelica, the 'horse angel' who is a mysterious girl who can communicate with horses, has supernatural powers and whose purpose is to help horses (and people) in trouble.
MY VIEW: From a brief glance at the description of the series you would be forgiven for thinking it was the usual teen fantasy fare. But when you begin to read the books it soon becomes clear that there is far more to them than that. In my opinion Anglea Dorsey is one of the best of all the Stabenfeldt writers and I think the reason is that she delivers the goods the market demands, but wraps them up within stories that have a lot more depth and characterisation than the norm. I have reviewed the Horse Angel series in depth on the ponymadbooklover forum so I am not going to repeat myself further here. Click here to read the full review
Angela Dorsey - Freedom
SUMMARY: Jani moves to a new house and finds that the barn on their new property is haunted by a ghost horse. The ghost seems to hate people and even tries to attack Jani. But when Jani and her friend Penny find out the truth behind the ghost they decide the horse needs to be helped to be set free.
MY VIEW: As with the Horse Angel series, Ms. Dorsey has also given the now common-place horse ghost story a face-lift. The ghost is far scarier than in most pony ghost stories and there is a general sense of menace in the supernatural episodes. When we learn the ghost's secret it is quite hard-hitting and the subsequent events are slightly gruesome: the story is reminiscent more of an adult ghost story. Indeed this is not a pony story with a ghostly element shoe-horned in just to make it more exciting. It is a true ghost story which just happens to have a horse theme. As with the author's Horse Angel series, the characters and themes have more depth than in most books of this sort. Again, an excellent enjoyable read.
NB - there two further sequels to Freedom.
Eleanor Jones - Circle of Blue
SUMMARY: Tina seems to have a charmed life: with her fabulous horse Phantom she has won a mass of trophies. Compared to her, Billy with his lanky frame and dog-like willingness to please, seems a bit of a joke. But then on the way back from a show she gets lost and when she eventually finds her way home everything is the same but different. Her world has been subtly changed and she is now the underdog with Billy the whizz kid showjumper. How can she get back to her former life?
MY VIEW: This is an interesting book. I haven't read any of Ms. Jones' other pony books but this one is certainly worth a read. Like Angela Dorsey's Horse Angel series it is horsy fantasy but with a bit of a twist, a horsy alternative reality story if you will - almost horsy sci-fi! But at the heart of it lies an old-fashioned morality tale. The heroine seems to have everything going for her, a brilliant horse, a string of wins at shows, etc, etc. But whereas in the more shallow teen horse stories the reader is expected to take that as a given and not question the win, win, me, me attitude, this book questions it's importance . This is what I like about Stabenfeldt books. Far more than most modern teen stories, in general they do manage to uphold the values of the old-fashioned pony book where loving your pony and being a decent person was more important than having a flashy horse, winning all the prizes, or wearing the most expensive brand of jods. In Circle of Blue, the heroine is a little smug at the beginning of the book and she looks down slightly upon the bumbling Billy, not nastily but not really seeing him as anyone as importance. When she talks about the mystery of his missing parents for example, she says that she didn't pursue the mystery, mainly because she wasn't interested enough. When she crosses over into a parallel world she finds that she and Billy seem to have swapped places and he is now the top rider. Through this experience she learns that the old Billy had better qualities and values and as such she learns to appreciate these values much more. We know that if she can get back to her own world she will become a much nicer and more enlightened person, and will no doubt find Billy much more appealing.
But the book is not all morality tale. The supernatural element is very well done, there is a slightly off-kilter note permeating the book that really makes the reader feel that they have entered the same alternate world as the heroine. The book is well-written and very readable and the heroine is likeable enough to root for. An unusual story which will provide a good read to anyone wanting something a little out of the ordinary. I am certainly going to try and find other books by this interesting author.
Sharon Siamon - Saddle Island Series
SUMMARY: Kelsie and her brother Andy have moved to a new home on the beautiful Nova Scotia coast beside the intriguing Saddle Island. Once there they fall in love with the place and become involved in the rescue of a number of horses. But at the back of their minds is that their father will not be able to find a job and they will have to leave their new home.
MY VIEW: Another series in which the title sounds slightly off-putting but proves to be better than expected. Well, actually I had previously read another book by Sharon Siamon and was pleasantly surprised to find it better than the average teen novel, so it wasn't a huge shock to find these books too were of a high quality. Ms. Siamon is, like Angela Dorsey, one of the Stabenfeldt stars. She is another great writer whose books are very readable and who also manages to give some depth to the stories and characters. What I really like most about this series is the relationship of the brother and sister which gives the book a sense of being more than just a pony series, but also about families and relationships. The setting too, on the beautiful Nova Scotia coast, is enjoyable. As with Monica Edwards' Romney Marsh series, boats and the sea play as important a part in the stories as ponies. The pony element of the story is primarily about rescue. In each story the children are rescuing a horse or horses, but there is also a backstory and a bit of adventure in each one too. Romance rears its ugly head but only marginally as the main character has a crush on an older boy, and also her brother and best friend have romantic feelings for each other. It is actually done quite well, especially the relationship of the brother and friend, and captures both the tentative quality of first love, and the struggle to know how to deal with it. Horses, family dynamics, romance and danger: again we have something for everyone in these well-written, fast-paced stories.
Gabi Adam - Diablo Series
SUMMARY: A long running teen series. In the first book Ricki falls in love with Diablo, a horse at the stables where she rides, and finds, to her horror, he is being abused by his owner. She risks her own safety to rescue him and in the later books in the series Diablo becomes her own horse. In the subsequent books, we follow various horsy adventures which happen to Ricki, Diablo and their friends.
MY VIEW: Yet another series and again well done, although in my view not quite as outstanding as the previous books. I have only read a few books in the series but they were all very readable, although the first was to my mind the best. The characters are very well drawn in this series and in particular we have for once a main adult character, with an important role to play in the stories.
Once again the emphasis is not on winning, looks, or success, but on caring for your horse. The books are big on denouncing ill-treatment of animals. The style of the books is perhaps a bit more workmanlike than the more eloquent writing of the previous authors, but this is perhaps a result of translation. Certainly they are very easy books to read. The books attempt to deal with various life issues such as jealousy and old age, and do so in a fairly capable manner, not using them for effect or glossing over them as do some books. There is a romance element but it is not at all mawkish or irritating, in fact it does not detract from the story much at all. The only real downside to the books is that they are a tad over-sentimental, with tears gushing and people hugging on every few pages. All in all though, a good solid pony series.
Anna Sellberg - Sara Series
SUMMARY: Another teen series in which a girl called (you've guessed it) Sara solves a number of horsy mysteries. This is more of a mystery type series than traditional pony series, with the emphasis mainly on solving the equine related crimes.
MY VIEW: There is a problem with these books which I think is mainly due to poor translation rather than the writing. These were originally written in Swedish and were translated into English for the American market. The first book in the series is very hard to read due to its poor (translated) grammar and clunky narrative and I doubt the translator knew much about horses either judging by some of the odd translations of horsy words (although this does provide the occaisional laugh). The story too was fairly run of the mill and there was no real depth to anything. The other books in the series did improve both in terms of better translation and better plots and it must be admitted that the heroine is a very likeable character. Perhaps younger readers will be less critical but it is a shame that a potentially good series could not have been served with a better translation.
Emma Raven - Twilight Mystery
SUMMARY: Salma has an exciting role as a stunt double in a beautiful haunted castle. But then people and horses start to disappear. Can she solve the mystery?
MY VIEW: This is the only one of the lot that I could not even manage to finish. I gave up about a quarter of the way through. I will not go into much detail as I feel its unfair to review a book you haven't read all the way through. It is part of a series which is set in the world of film-making and stunt riding. This was actually the last of the series and perhaps if I had read the others first I would have cared more about the characters and I would have enjoyed the book more. In my mind the book just tried to pack too many things into one story: the horse element, the ghost factor, the glamourous element of the film world, a mystery story. Sadly, I didnt feel interested in any one of these elements. EDIT - I have just got hold of the first book in this series so I am going to give it a go shortly. It will be reviewed in Part 3 of the Stabenfeldt blogs, coming soon!
So once again a general thumbs up for Stabenfeldt. I have read just about all the books now from the original job lot, but I will certainly be looking for more or them to read, especially by those authors I have enjoyed the most, and when I do will review them here.
Sunday, 15 August 2010
LAURA NELSON BAKER
GENEVIEVE TORREY EAMES
DOROTHY N MORRISON
SHIRLEY ROUSSEAU MURPHY
BARBARA GARLAND POLIKOFF
MARGARET CABELL SELF
DON ALONZO TAYLOR
MARK VAN DOREN
As usual, you can check out all the authors here
Wednesday, 30 June 2010
C S ADLER
GEORGE AGNEW CHAMBERLAIN
JOHN W CHAMBERS
MARGARET GOFF CLARK
REX DIXON (aka ROBERT MARTIN)
JOHN T FOSTER
B L KEARLEY
PAM MUNOZ RYAN
JOAN SELBY LOWNDES
ELIZABETH VAN STEENWYK
KIM ABLON WHITNEY
JOHN RICHARD YOUNG
To check out the new authors please click here
Sunday, 6 June 2010
What really surprised me however was the number of American authors I had not previously heard of. The stories in this pony library were not on the whole by 'A-list' equine authors. Yes, some very popular authors such as Harlan Thompson, Rutherford Montgomery, Henry V. Larom and Thomas C. Hinkle were featured, but there was nothing by authors of much more world-wide fame such as Walter Farley, Mary O'Hara or Marguerite Henry. Not sure why this was, but it has certainly opened my eyes to yet more authors in the field! From the relatively simple task of compiling a section on the Famous Horse Stories books, I have had to widen my net to include all the authors who featured in the series who were not already on my website!
The new authors added who feature in the series include:
ESTELLE BARNES CLAPP
JOHN TAINTOR FOOTE
HENRY V. LAROM
ISABEL McLENNAN McMEEKIN
COLONEL S. P. MEEK
To check out these new authors and also the new Famous Horse Stories page please visit the information section on the website
Friday, 4 June 2010
1. SERIES - You can now search for books and authors by series. This may be useful if you can remember some details about a particlar well-loved series but not the author, and can also be browsed to see if any new series take your fancy!
To see the new series page please click here
2. PONY ANNUALS - Including pages on Pony Club, Pony Magazine, Princess, Follyfoot, Black Beauty and Champion annuals. More annals will be addded in time.
To check them out please click here
Thursday, 6 May 2010
NINA LLOYD BANNING
DANDI DALEY MACKALL
ALBERT G. MILLER
FRANK C ROBERTSON
I will not be adding many new authors in the near future as I am concentrating on some other new sections to be added to the site.
Wednesday, 7 April 2010
Wednesday, 31 March 2010
G. O CONNOR
Some of these you may not have heard of as they have only written one or two pony titles. However, I am sure everyone will know Will James, who is a perhaps belated addition! To check out these and many other authors please visit the author and book info page here
Sunday, 21 March 2010
MARY ELLEN COLLURA
DIANE LEE WILSON
These are mainly American or Canadian authors. To check them out please visit the website book and author info page
Tuesday, 16 March 2010
Now I am not a huge fan of the modern pony story, I find them on the whole too overly endowed with fantasy, the characters self-centred and pre-occupied with winning, and the overwhelming 'teen' atmosphere of boys, romance and looking good rather cloying. However, I thought I would give some of the 'Stabenfeldt' pony stories a go. I must admit, after reading about half or dozen or so, I am quite pleasantly surprised. OK, the books do suffer somewhat from the usual over-preponderance of fantasy and romance, but otherwise these are amongst the most traditional type and enjoyable modern pony stories I have read.
Here is some info and my views on the ones I have read so far:
THE GREEN HORSE HOTEL, GREEN HORSE SUMMER, GREEN HORSE WINTER by ISOLDE PULLUM
SUMMARY: A trilogy of books about a horse mad teenage girl who is living at a haunted hotel run by her parents. Each book is concerned with a) Jenna's horsy exploits, b) a supernatural plus a non-supernatural mystery, c) Jenna's love life which consists of a love triangle between her and two good looking guys. They are primarily mystery stories.
MY VIEW: Of all the Stabenfeldt books I have read so far they have the most fantasy and teen romance elements within. However, neither of these are not too overpowering and the books are very readable with good solid mysteries at the heart of the stories.
I have written a full review of the trilogy which can be read here
BRAZEN HORSE by ISOLDE PULLUM
SUMMARY: Paula is traumatised when her in-foal mare Bella is attacked and hurt badly. To take her mind off the tragedy, her parents allow her to buy a new horse. Enter Jazz, a brash and brazen Polish horse who has plenty of raw talent but no manners! With the help of a new boyfriend and a local horsy expert, Paula starts to tame Jazz and is hopeful of a possible eventing career for the pair of them. But someone is out to get Paula and prevent her and Jazz from getting on. Is it the horrid Tony, and could he also have been responsible for Bella's injuries?
MY VIEW - This is I feel superior to the Green Horse trilogy by the same author. Why? Firstly the heroine is more sympathetic, she has more faults than Jenna from the Green Horse books, which makes the reader more able to empathise and identify with her. Secondly the romance element is much more subtle and does not take over the horse story at all. Thirdly, this is much more of a traditional horse story with more horsy detail about training, etc, and no sniff of the supernatural! Like the Green Horse series it is very easy to read, but the narrative, from the first person view-point is tighter than in that series. On the down side the story line is not hugely original, but that is not a huge fault. All in all, probably the closest thing you can get to a traditional pony book from a modern author in this day and age!
IF WISHES WERE HORSES by VIRGINIA VAIL
SUMMARY: Cam lives with her large family, helping out on her parents market garden/farm. She has an image of a dream horse in her mind but knows that money is too tight for her to ever have a horse of her own. Although she shares her best friend Lacey's pony, she feels left out when Lacey joins a local riding club. Then one day she ends up rescuing an ugly-looking neglected horse which she buys for 2 cents to save from slaughter. The horse could be a ticket to her membership of the riding club. But she soon finds that the animal, even when it has been restored back to health is far from the wonderful horse of her dreams!
MY VIEW: One of my favourites of these Stabenfeldt books and one of the better modern stories I have read. Admittedly it was originally written a few years earlier and the Stabenfeldt book is a reprint, but even it's original publishing date qualifies it under my definition of 'modern.' This is an extremely traditional story and the bare bones of the plot could easily have featured in a pony book from the 1940s or 50s. There is not a ghost, unicorn or indeed lovelorn maiden in sight! Like all the best horse stories, this is about the relationship of horse and girl and the transformation of said girl through her contact with the equine persona!
I have written a full review of the book which can be viewed here
THE PONY VACATION by GILL MORRELL
SUMMARY: Horse mad girl goes on a riding holiday but once there she feels inexperienced and hopeless next to the other children. She eventually overcomes her fears to learn to ride and enjoy herself, but the holiday is marred by the nasty tricks played on her by an unpleasant boy.
MY VIEW: Nice undemanding children’s story. Believable characters who interact well together. The heroine is sympathetic and there is a satisfying ‘baddie’ to rail against. Very easy to read narrative which flows nicely. There is a very slight element of romance which is very subtle and not intrusive at all, in my opinion the exact level which should be in a pony book for this age level (ie up to younger teens). In fact the book may in fact be slightly anti-romance in that one of the characters who lets a crush on a boy get the better of her, ends up suffering for it! Possibly lack of originality and a slightly unsubtle delivery of various ‘messages’ within the story (ie..learning to get along with siblings) are the only real faults, but all in all a good traditional pony story with none of the modern downfalls of too much fantasy, romance or emphasis on winning.
THE CHRISTMAS COLT by MALLORY STEVENS
SUMMARY– Girl living on family stud farm must raise one of the foals as a family tradition. When it is a year old, it will be sold at auction and part of the money used to buy her a horse of her own. When the foal she has to look after is not that of her favourite mare she is devastated. But she soon learns to love the foal. In fact she gets so close that she cannot bear the thought of losing him when he must be sold.
MY VIEW - Another modern book I really enjoyed. I was prepared to dislike the heroine at first as she seemed to have too much going for her and not much to empathise with. The fact that she really disliked a little Anglo Arab colt was and thought him ugly was particularly incomprehensible! However as the book goes on the heroine becomes much more sympathetic. What begins as duty turns into love as she realises that character is more important than looks. There is little in the way of teen romance or the like to get in the way of the story, as our heroine is too dedicated to her foal to gad about with boys! It is at heart a traditional girl and horse love story with a very poignant part where she has to give up her beloved foal.
LEGEND OF THE ISLAND HORSE by JENNY HUGHES
SUMMARY: Girl and horse go with father to stay on island while he researches a horsy legend for his book. There girl meets cute boy who helps her school her horse. Strange things start to happen and people begin to get hurt. Can this have something to do with the legend?
MY VIEW: A mystery story. Of the Stabenfeldt ones I have read recently, this is perhaps the weakest. It’s hard to put my finger on why. It is competently-written, readable and has believable characters and it manages to handle the modern teen elements of fantasy and romance well. The romance is there but there is nothing cloying about it and there is none of the teen angst about ‘lurve’ which can threaten to spoil a modern pony story. In fact, although there is a romance in all of the author's books, she has in my opinion got the amount and depth which should be contained in a pony book just right. The horse element is interesting, with the horses being trained for eventing in a realistic manner, and the island setting is nice. Perhaps what disappointed me about the story most was the fact that the legend which gives the book its title seemed to be put on the back-burner for most of the book. This was in my mind the most potentially interesting aspect of the plot and better use of it could have injected some extra interest into a rather dull story-line. As with all Jenny Hughes' books this story is very easy to read but perhaps it is not one of her best.
As you can see from the reviews, I had a favourable opinion of most of the books I have read and they do prove that traditional pony stories can be written within a modern framework. Sadly, British publishers do not seem to believe this and our own selection of traditional modern pony stories is pitifully sparse. It is annoying that lovers of pony literature in the UK must buy from the USA to find a decent modern story, especially as ironically many of the authors are British!
Watch this space for more reviews of Stabenfeldt books coming soon......
Thursday, 11 March 2010
Monday, 1 March 2010
To check out the new sections here:
European authors & books
Pony libraries and publishers
Thursday, 18 February 2010
AGNES V. RANNEY
You can check them out on the information section of my website here
Tuesday, 9 February 2010
I think this is partly a direct response to a huge number of complaints, but probably due for the most part to the falling sales/profits over the period that the policy was operating. According to Advertising Age (an advertising and marketing journal) eBay's income for the fourth quarter of 2009 was down a massive 31% and it's stock prices have also plummetted. At the same time its rival Amazon reported increased profits over the period: perhaps due to disgruntled ex-eBay sellers (and their buyers) flocking there?
Whatever the reason for eBay's u-turn, it is still debatable how much this will help them. Many sellers have left vowing never to return, and it has perhaps pushed some small businesses who were once totally loyal to eBay into exploring a wider range of selling platforms. People have begun to lose confidence in ebay and it may take more than this volte-face to restore it. For eBay is still tinkering around, changing the rules every few weeks so that no-one - buyer or seller - knows where they are. Sadly they have completely ignored the old adage 'if it ain't broke don't fix it.' If they want to regain the halcyon days of the eBay of yore they have to do a lot more than this - but perhaps it is a step in the right direction. I just hope if they are trying to bring back the old-style eBay it is not too late to do so.
Saturday, 6 February 2010
Check them out on the author and book info page
I am almost finished a page on Sharon Siamon but need to scan a couple of pics to add before uploading it. Still working on the Monica Edwards page as it's huge!
Sunday, 17 January 2010
This is a copy of the review I recently did for A PONY FOR JEAN by JOANNA CANNAN on the ponymadbooklovers website Please feel free to add comments here or on the website.
When Jean’s rich father falls on hard times the family must move to a cottage in the country. But Jean soon finds life actually becomes more enjoyable. When visiting her cousins Jean falls off one of their ponies and then confesses she cannot ride. They give her a scrawny mistreated pony whom they had rescued but now don’t know what to do with. They call him The Toastrack as he is so skinny, but Jean re-names him Cavalier. After a lot of loving care and attention, Cavalier improves a lot. So does Jean’s riding. Although the cousins tell her he can’t jump, one night when their house is burgled and Jean rides him for help, he jumps a stile. Eventually Jean persuades him to jump in cold blood and he becomes quite a nice little jumper.
Jean does not really get on with her cousins, especially Camilla who is a superb rider but is a little obnoxious. The only one who is quite nice is Guy. After a humiliating pony club rally when she is classed with the ‘tinies’ Jean is determined to do well at the Pony Club gymkhana. Her mother tells her she must not enter for the jumping as they will be too high for her, but she is disappointed as that is Cavalier’s forte. She secretly borrows money from Guy to enter on the day.
She does well at the gymkhana and when celebrating with an animal’s fancy dress party the cousins turn up and she realises they are not as bad as she thought after all. There is a slight crisis when it turns out her father has regained his fortune and got a new job - but when she finds out she won’t have to leave the country and move back to London Jean is happy.
It has been many years since I read this book, but I lately decided to re-read the full ‘Jean’ series. I have to say I was slightly disappointed, as the series does not compare favourably to her other works such as I Wrote a Pony Book and They Bought Her a Pony. The main gripe with the story is that the plot is unoriginal. However, this is ironically the one point we cannot really criticise it upon. Why? Because of the era when it was written. To the modern reader who has read hundreds, if not thousands of pony stories, the plot of a girl improving a seemingly hopeless pony and her own riding in order to win at a gymkhana, is hopelessly jaded. However in the 1930s when the book was first written, most pony books were Black Beauty-esque tales, told either from the pony’s point of view, or mainly concerned with the life of the pony rather than the people in the story. Joanna Cannan, and one or two other authors of the time, began to explore a different sort of pony story: that seen from the viewpoint of the rider rather than that of the pony. So in reality, the plot was actually fairly revolutionary for it’s time!
However, even if we cannot criticise the unoriginality of the plot there are a few holes in the story which I must point out. One of the main criticisms is that Jean, having only ridden on seaside donkeys or ponies, and with no instruction, manages not only to learn to ride well enough to win the jumping in a gymkahana, but also to train a green pony to jump, (a pony it must be remembered that her cousins – all experienced riders – could not). This is fairly unbelievable. If we compare the book to a similar novel written about the same time – Jill’s Gymkhana – Jill actually has the help of an instructor in the form of Martin, and even then she does modestly well at her first gymkhana. Jean’s rise is just too meteoric to be believable.
The horse element of the story lacks the realism which Joanna’s daughters, the PTs, brought to their books. There is very little emphasis on the actual training of horses, or the ins and outs of riding. Jean trains Cavalier to jump by leaping over jumps with him following and giving him oats. Not exactly scientific – and Major Holbrooke would be rolling his eyes! The author probably wasn’t hugely experienced when she wrote the book; her daughters had ponies so she obviously knew the basics but she either did not share their in-depth knowledge or just did not consider it worth while putting in a book. To be fair, the instructional element in pony books did not really appear until a generation later (and was in fact pioneered mainly by daughter Josephine) but in my mind the lack of reality in the pony element is a little disappointing.
The book unfortunately ticks the box of that main criticism of the pony book genre: it is solidly middle class. The family has supposedly fallen on hard times but is living in a detached cottage with its own orchard and stables. Like Jill and her mother in Ruby Ferguson’s book, they also still have a ‘daily’ woman who comes in to cook and clean for them! The class boundaries are firmly in place. When Jean calls a gamekeeper ‘my good man’ it offends the modern reader, but was quite normal behaviour in that day and age. The ‘jolly hockey sticks’ type tone of the book also palls slightly at times and the author has an irritating habit of italicising: you can lose count of the number of time Jean shrieked or screamed at her mother or flew somewhere or commented that something was awful. (And this fault if anything is worse in the sequel!)
However, despite the criticisms, this is in no way a bad book. In fact it is very well written, well-observed and highly readable. The book is written in an irrisistably humourous style which carries the reader along effortlessly. You at once warm to Jean, who although not the most exciting character in the world, is extremely human. The fact that it is written in the first person does help with empathy but it is mainly achieved through the skill of the writer. All the little annoying quirks of life appear, like items disappearing and reappearing in unlikely places, things going wrong when you are in a hurry, etc, etc. And they are all described with a resigned humour which is reminiscent almost of a stand-up comedian.
Although this is in no way a deep or soul searching novel, we do get a glimpse into the interior life of Jean. One of the most striking observations she makes is how sometimes we fail to speak up when we should:
“Sometimes, when you are among strangers….you can’t say things, especially when they are very important and matter awfully. In fact the more important they are the more difficult it is to say them.” (Page 65)
There are lots more observations like this and it is due to the skill of the author that these sections do not stand out clumsily from the rest of the narrative, or sound preachy: either of which outcomes could have resulted from a less competent writer.
Along with her hmourous, though insightful, observations on life, one of Joanna Cannan’s talent’s was her skill in creating character sketches. Aunt Daphne, for example, is a brilliant comic creation, but so true to life: that sort of person who is always talking about fluffy little animals but would run a mile from the reality of looking after them. Joanna Cannan is also adept in her lightning quick sketches of minor characters, for example giving the competitors at the gymkhana names which sum them up, such as The Polite Boy, The White Mice, etc. In this way she makes it more interesting to read, without having to go into too much detail and spoil the narrative flow. Gymkhana scenes are perhaps the hardest to write as they can easily become boring or monotonous. I don’t normally find them very entertaining but in this author’s capable hands the gymkhana reads as easily as the rest of the book.
Fortunately in her later books, the author was to concentrate more on her strengths, and that narrative style and humour was to be coupled with much more interesting plots and more in-depth exploration of character: all of which seem to come together in her brilliant I Wrote a Pony Book. However A Pony For Jean is definitely worth a read for it’s charming style and for the fact that it was at the forefront of the rider-centred pony book as we know it today, and as such is a classic of the genre.
It is also interesting to read Joanna Cannan’s books and see much of her style (both good and bad!) appearing in her children. The humour appeared mainly in Josephine, the insight in Diana and the readability in all three. Her daughters were to build upon her beginnings and bring a further depth and realism to the pony genre, but Joanna will always be one of the pioneers!
NB - To see the review on the ponymadbooklovers website, vote for it and/or add comments please click here
Monday, 4 January 2010
JUDY VAN DER VEER
ARMINE VON TEMPSKI
Due to the fact I am practically snowed in at the mo, I will hopefully be able to add quite a few more over January.