Saturday, 29 December 2007

Christmas...not so bad after all?

I am not really a Christmassy person. I used to quite like it when it meant escaping work for a couple of weeks, but even that bonus is missing now that I am self-employed.

Everything about it seems to have become an irritation, from the hideously cheerful Christmas songs that begin playing everywhere from October onwards, to the desperate grubbing around trying to find a present more interesting than the usual socks, to the yearly search for the Christmas tree and decorations which never seem to be in the place you remember putting them, to the endless trailing round visiting relatives whom though you only see once a year, its still once a year too much. It's enough to have you reaching for the brandy instead of putting it in the Christmas cake! And then of course there is the orgy of eating and drinking leaving you feeling full of guilt and indigestion as a year's dieting is blown in a week.
But before you are sending me the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future, I do have some nice words to say about Christmas. Well, one, really. Books.

Santa has thankfully ignored the fact I have not been a good little girl and brought me a bumper crop of pony books which I have been looking for to add to my collection. These include Gillian Baxter's Bargain Horses, K. M. Peyton's The Sound of Distant Cheering and The Grey Ghost by Carolyn Henderson, none of which I have read before. But the best of all by far are a pair of books whose arrival has almost made me want to start singing Jingle Bells and wearing a pair of furry antlers on my head.
These are a first edition of Sabre The Horse From the Sea by Kathleen Herald (aka K. M. Peyton) and also by her a 1950s edition of The Mandrake a Pony.

So pass the After Eight Mints and turkey sandwiches round one more time, turn up the volume on that Christmas Compilation CD, I don't care. I will have my head buried in one of these beauties.
Maybe Christmas isn't so bad after all...

Thursday, 13 December 2007

The Marvellous Mongolian - an unusual pony book

Just been reading this book which must be one of the most unusual pony books I've read in a long while. Why? Well, first of all it is about a breed of horse which I've never come across mentioned in a pony book before - the Przewalski horse (also known as the Wild Mongolian Horse). This is a very rare breed which is thought to be the only true wild horse breed in the world. It must also be the hardest breed to spell too!

Secondly the book is set in many different countries, mainly in Mongolia (as to be expected) and Wales. The Welsh setting may seem a natural backdrop for a pony story, but have there been any other pony books set in Asia? Pony books rarely feature countries other than the UK, USA or Australia. The customs and setting of the Mongolian part of the story make for an eye-opening and very interesting read.

Thirdly the way the book is written is very unusual. The whole story is narrated through letters between a girl in Wales and a boy in Mongolia. This type of narrative was very common in British literature around the 18th century but today is extremely unusual. The nearest I've seen to it is in Judith Berrisford's Jackie books where the author uses Jackie's occaisional letters to her parents to update the story and move the plot forward. It may seem a little off-putting to the reader but it actually makes for a very interesting read as we see the characters and customs of two children from different sides of the world.

And lastly, in a genre that is often criticised for its cliched story-lines, the plot is also very unusual. It concerns a wild Mongolian stallion who is captured and sent to a Welsh nature reserve as part of a breeding program. The stallion comes from a wild herd which was was first spotted by a Mongolian boy. The stallion is hoped to breed with a Shetland pony who has been looked after by a girl in Wales. The boy and girl begin to exchange letters, and through them the whole story of what happens next unfolds.

Hopefully I will have time to do a full review of the book on my website. In the meantime I would recommend it as an excellent read especially if you are looking for something different.