Sunday, 30 November 2008
Pony books and the e-world...
You can't get two further extremes than the modern hi-tech phenomenons of Myspace, Facebook and Bebo and the old-fashioned golly-gosh world of the Jill pony books created by Ruby Ferguson. So it may seem rather anachronistic to find a facebook group devoted to our pig-tailed heroine.
I was a little surprised myself when I was contacted by it's creator.
But on second thoughts, why not? After all my website (and indeed this blog) is devoted to pony books. Although the internet may be criticised for its detrimental effect on social interection and more traditional past-times such as reading, in my experience it has actually had a benefical effect on the world of pony book sand their readers. Through ebay, many people have been able to find old childhood favourites which they had previously thought they'd never see again. The internet through websites and forums, such as
my own, has brought together like minded pony book loving people. How many times have I been told 'I thought I was the only adult mad enough to still be reading pony books?' I thought that way myself until I met lots of other grown up 'pony book nerds' through the power of the internet. And of course the net is unparalled in its ability to provide information. I (and hundreds of others) have learned so much more about the books and their authors since using the web to access this info and contact other interested people. In all ways the internet has improved the life (and in many cases the book collection!) of the average pony book reader.
So why shouldn't Jill have her own facebook group? And maybe even her own Myspace page and blog! After all when you think about it, the web really can be 'wizard!'
To visit or join the Jill/Ruby Ferguson facebook group click here
To visit the Ruby Ferguson page on my website click here
Tuesday, 19 August 2008
Thinking of other expensive series to buy, some others that spring to mind are:
Monica Edward's 'Punchbowl Farm' and 'Romney Marsh' series.....£300 ish each
Caroline Akrill's 'Caroline' series......£170 ish
Joesphine Pullein Thompson's 'Moors' series......£150 ish
Primrose Cumming's 'Silver Eagle' series......£100 ish
Jo Furminger's 'Blackbirds' series......£90 ish
Nancy Caffrey's 'Jay and Jan' series......£75 ish
Nudging the £2000 mark for that little lot!!! Who said reading was a cheap past-time...?
Monday, 9 June 2008
The only reason I can give for its lack of popularity is that it does not fit neatly into the usual pony book mould, and contains elements which may be considered controversial, at least at the time of publishing.
The story begins in quite a traditional way with our heroine Sharon bemoaning the fact that she does not have her own pony. She then meets Chris who owns a pony called Sweet Rock. She falls in love with Rock and soon becomes friends with Chris. But Chris is not your typical character. On the whole he is a bit of a wastrel, he does not treat his pony well, in fact has deliberately trained her to bolt and rear, and is always causing trouble. But Sharon finds herself drawn to him, his charm, love of life and willingness to help seem to balance out his bad points. When Chris has to leave for a few months he asks Sharon to look after Rock for him. With the help of a local riding school instructor, she re-trains Rock and begins to win classes on her. But then Chris returns. Although she is happy to see him, she is upset when Chris reclaims Rock, seeing her as an easy way to make money by winning in local shows. But Chris does not have the patience to do well on Rock and things start going wrong between him and Rock and Sharon.
This is as much a story about a troubled boy as a pony book. Chris is a complex and compelling character and it is up to Sharon to redeem not only the troublesome Rock but her equally troublesome master. The book explores whether nature or nurture will win out. Will Chris follow in his shady father's footsteps or can the good influence of Sharon and her mother help to change him? In my opinion this parallel of the traditional 'girl makes unreliable pony good' plot with that of Sharon's similar influence over Chris gives the book a far deeper and more subtle feel than that of your average pony book, but I can't help wondering if it is this more complex element which caused the book to lose popularity. I am reading it from an adult perspective, but the story may possibly have been just too for the younger reader wanting their usual pony book fix.
Also, the character of Chris may have been just too controversial for the time. Were there perhaps complaints from readers about his behaviour? Normally such bad behaviour would be consigned to one of the 'baddies' in a book but in Sweet Rock Chris is ostensibly on the side of the 'goodies.' The blurring of boundaries between the black and white of good and bad is in my opinion what makes the book such an excellent read, but perhaps this was just too subtle for a childish reader (or perhaps censorious parent) to fully grasp.
Whatever the reason it is a shame that this book wasn't more widely published or better known, for it is an excellent pony book which also has a bit of 'bite.' This makes it particularly suitable for the adult pony book reader. If you liked 'Bargain Horses' another quirky read which looks at life from a slightly off-beat angle, I am sure you will also enjoy this book. So please try and find a copy, read it, and spread the word!
Saturday, 31 May 2008
Tuesday, 13 May 2008
Friday, 25 April 2008
Why should that be? Well, with the American angle, I think it has always been true that the American horse book scene is more wide-ranging than that of the UK, not really concentrating on the young girl/pony club element around which the British pony book centres. It has always had a wider frame, with more male central characters, more older characters and is more eclectic in theme. It also seems to concentrate a lot more on racing than the UK books and it is probably this disclipline which attracts a more adult theme (in fact a large proportion of the UK adult horse books are set in the world of racing too). It is not surprisingly therefore that the horse book in America should spill over into the adult market.
Saturday, 5 April 2008
Thursday, 6 March 2008
One of these such books which I had to purchase from America, is Green Heart. This is a horse story for the older child or adult and focuses on Sarah, a young girl who when her mother dies, must take on the responsibility of looking after her two younger brothers. She takes a job looking after a racehorse but when the horse breaks down at a local racetrack and the owner wants to destroy the mare, Sarah declares that she will nurse the horse back to health. Many of the local busybodies are scandalised when Sarah appears to neglect her brothers for the sake of the horse, and even try to have the children put into care. But as in Come Down the Mountain, the presence of the horse starts to unite the community, slowly changing people's attitudes, as they begin to share Sarah's determinatin to restore the horse back to her former glory and see her race again.
As well as being an excellent story, the book also explores the life of a small country community, the relationship the people have with the land and their surroundings, and the power of the moors, which are intimately bound up with the villager's lives. In some ways this is similar to the horse stories of Joyce Stranger which also focus on their countryside setting, especially the farming community. In this both the works of Smith and Stranger are far more than just run of the mill pony stories.
Other hard to find titles by Vian Smith more commonly seen in the USA include King Sam (published as Tall and Proud in the USA), Question Mark (published as Pride of the Moor in the USA), The Horses of Petrock, The Lord Mayor's Show.
Most of these books, like Green Heart, have a similar deep grounding in their moorland backdrops and it does seem a shame that to read stories which are so essentially English, the reader must buy them from the USA. It almost seems as if the Americans have taken the author to their hearts and appreciated his love of the English countryside far more than their British counterparts.
To read more about Vian Smith please click here
Sunday, 27 January 2008
Moyra Charlton - amazingly only around 11 or 12 when she wrote her first book Tally Ho.
It is difficult to come up with a reason for this precocity. One suggestion is that children matured more quickly then. But if we examine the ages of some of the non-pony female authors of the same period, such as Enid Blyton, E. M. Brent-Dyer, Noel Streatfield, Richmal Crompton and Lorna Hill, we find that all of these authors were in their 20s to 40s when they began writing novels. It does in fact seem a trend amongst horsy rather than general authors.
It would be nice to come up with a theory to neatly explain the precocity (and if anyone has any suggestions please let me know!) However, whatever the reason, let us be grateful that our favourite authors did not consign their early works to a dusty attic along with their old dolls and teddies, but allowed the rest of us to share their youthful writings.