Sunday, 30 December 2007

Review: JOSEPHINE - Pony Club Challenge

Pony Club Challenge is the next book in the Woodbury Pony club series.

It was first published in 1984, but the picture to the right shows the Dean compilation which was first published in 1994.

The blurb for this book reads:-

"We've been given a challenge," instructor David Lumley announced to the Woodbury Pony Club. "To take on the Cranford Vale in a tetrathlon - swimming, shooting, running and cross-country riding. Who wants to start training?" James, Alice, Harry and the other members can't wait to compete against the brilliant Cranford Vale team. But will they be able to get themselves and their ponies into shape in only three weeks?

As for illustrations, there is a quick map on the first page. This map is not credited and there are no more further illustrations.

The book differs a little from the previous book: Jennifer Blacker on Sea King has now left the Pony Club, and there is a new boy called Sebastion Fuller (referred to as Seb) with a pony called Jigsaw (a name all 3 sisters chose to use). Sarah, has an additional new pony; Bowie and as she already had a pony called Chess, that means Tina is mounted for the majority of this book.

Anyway, this is a good follow up to the previous book. Again, like Pony Club Cup, there is full of useful information and titbits about schooling weaved into the story. But as they are competing in the Tetrathlon, it also gives (to a certain extent) information about how much rider fitness is equally as important as horse fitness.

The book is full of thrills and spills, not just horse wise, but when there is a nasty incident with the guns used for the tetrathlon, which annoys the local stud owner immensely. But when the members help him, he soon changes his mind. A lot of it is dealt with fund raising: the only bit that dates it slightly is when it says "Everyone felt much more cheerful at the sight of pound notes", as in the UK, we don't use pound notes any more (they were withdrawn from circulation in 1988).

But to some extent this is more adventurous than the previous one and the one thing that shines through is teamwork. Teamwork in order to make themselves a decent team for the Tetrathlon, teamwork for the actual fund raising and teamwork for helping the local stud owner. Seb makes an good and interesting character, and is more predominant and all round good character than Jennifer Blacker.

Saturday, 22 December 2007

Review: JOSEPHINE - Pony Club Cup

Pony Club Cup is this week's book, and the first Josephine book on this blog.

It was first published in 1983, but the picture to the right shows the Dean compliation which was first published in 1994. The bad news is that for the next few weeks you will be seeing the same image, but fortunately each have their own blurb, which reads:-

The Woodbury Pony Club is not very successful. In fact it's the worst in the district. The neighbouring Cranford Vale team regard them as a joke. To make matters worse Woodbury are told they're getting a smashed up jockey as a new instructor. But they're in for a surprise. For under David Lumley's expert guidance the Woodbury members begin to work wonders with their atrocious ponies.

As for illustrations, there is a quick map on the first page. This map is not credited and there are no more further illustrations.

Just a quick note, which gets many people confused, this is a different Pony Club to the "Noel and Henry" one (also known as the West Barsetshire), and does not form part of the same series. The characters are completely different, though. (FYI, the "Noel and Henry" books are; Six Ponies, The Radney Riding Club, Pony Club Team, One Day Event and Pony Club Camp.)

I suspect this was a updated version of the Noel and Henry series, in a way this is a sign of a more modern times, and when injured (disabled) riders were more accepted outside the RDA. Although not as instructional as the Noel and Henry series (particularly Six Ponies), there is some useful riding tips in the books. I identify with them more than the Noel and Henry series, because this was exactly how I was taught, when I used to go riding in the riding school. Also, the introduction of Hanif (Harry) and his Asian mother is another sign; in the "Noel and Henry" series, the characters were white. The character of Tina, being a ponyless member, and frequently arrives dismounted, is another sign of the times; although Noel in Six Ponies did not have a pony of her own, she is introduced as being on a borrowed pony called Topsy, and is rarely (if ever seen) dismounted at a rally. Also, Tina's mother is single; this was never seen in the Noel and Henry series, as the main characters had both parents in a presumably, happy marriage to each other.

But dont let that fool you. It is a wonderfully good tale, with some fantastic incidents. I get the feeling that it is aimed at a slightly more younger age group than the Noel and Henry series, as the romance isnt quite so strong. It may not have the love and fan base as the Noel and Henry series, but something I feel isnt worth passing by. The combination of good turned bad, and how "disabled" people can change lives, given the right circumstances, and this makes a good, strong series. I like the fact that there are short character biographies, and the maps in the first page.

There is one slight bug bear though: Mrs Rooke. The comments are one thing that annoys me, and the way that she favours Sarah (her brilliant prizewinning daughter) is another. Sure Lesley (her other daughter) did not win as many rosettes, but she did turn out to have many other qualities otherwise. The comments are downright malicious; but I suppose Josephine put her there to give some perspective. Josephine herself was the Vis Commissioner and District Commissioner of a Pony Club, so I suspect Mrs Rooke was based on a real life person she knew.

All in all, like I said, a good solid firm start to a good series, although sadly not well thought of, as the Noel and Henry series.

Saturday, 15 December 2007

Slightly OT: Primrose Cumming

This week I received 2 new pony books, and for once they weren't actually P-T books. They were actually 2 Primrose Cumming books, they were the first edition of Foal of the Fjords and the Fidra Books edition of Silver Snaffles. This makes 3 Primrose Cumming books I now possess, the other one I have is her No Place For Ponies, a book I bought rather cheaply on ebay.

I must admit that I have not read her books before, No Place For Ponies is something that I have had on my bookshelf, but due to the nature of this blog, the P-T sisters must come first (after all how are you supposed to write a review of a book that I have never read?), but Primrose Cumming's books are something that I would love to collect. Alas, I dont think that I will ever get all of her books; Rivals to Silver Eagle and The Deep Sea Horse are so hard to find, and therefore cost a pretty penny (if I could find them).

Silver Snaffles is one that I took advantage of when Fidra were doing their "buy three books and receive a £5 discount". As I wanted to read this book, so much I bought it anyway, the price was (I suspect it has changed since this reprint came on the market) at least £50 on abebooks, which I did not want to pay. At a more modest price, at least if I did not like this, it wouldn't be too bad as having paid a higher sum.

Anyway, I picked this up last night (only just had it yesterday) to look at the book, and flick through the forward, which Jane Badger wrote. But I did not stop there. I read it in one whole sitting, a book which I have not done before (unless you count Christine P-T's Candy or Sophy series, but to be honest, they could be read in 5 minutes). Jane brilliantly observes that "
Silver Snaffles still weaves its spell today", which is completely true. I fell in love with it, and it has been a long while since I thoroughly enjoyed a book.

Regarding Primrose herself, I am always utterly amused by this comment, every time I read it:-

Primrose herself was highly amused, one day in her later life, when her neighbour at a dinner party remarked, “I used to have a story called Silver Snaffles as a child, but I’m afraid I can’t remember who wrote it.” “Well, actually, I did,” confessed Primrose, whereupon her neighbour, she told me, almost fell off her chair.

I am not surprised the dinner guest was shocked, I would be too, if I found out that I was related to or sitting with a great pony author. The nearest I felt shock was when I received a letter from both Josephine and Diana earlier on this year, but it was a good one. I darent think what would happen if I found out I was related to them, but I fear I have more chance of winning the lottery than that happening.

But if you can, I do urge you to get Silver Snaffles. The price isn't that bad for the Fidra books reprint, and they are slowly being delivered out. Or, if you get some money for Christmas, then do that. To miss this book, I feel would be an injustice. I feel it is better written than Black Beauty.

Review: DIANA - The Long Ride Home

The Long Ride Home is this week's book, and also the final Diana book we will be seeing for quite a considerable amount of time. I am aware that I have left out Black Princess, Black Romany and Black Piper, but I do plan to do all the "Black" books at the same time, by all 3 authors. It was first published in 1996, making it Diana's last book (both pony and non pony). It is not illustrated.

The blurb reads:-

"Call granny if something really awful happens and you need help" says
Carey's mother. before leaving. "You can share Sandpiper with me," Carey tells Hannah. But Hannah hates riding and soon the cottage fills with her mysterious friends. Before long the medical problem, which has dogged Cary ever since an attack of meningitis, is being exploited by Hannah and her boyfriend Steve. Then her mobile phone, Carey's lifeline, disappears. Frightened, she leaves the Scottish island with Sandpiper and her collie, Tina, and sets out to ride to her Grandmother's cottage in Yorkshire.

This is the story of Carey's long and often terrifying ride with her two beloved and sometimes awkward animals, a story of treachery and pursuit with an surprising twist at the end.

To a certain extent, this is based on Diana's own long ride (for those of you who are unaware, she rode from Land's End to John O'Groats), however she does make an comment that this book is entirely fictitious, save for the warm hospitality that she received from the Scots. Whether that bit is true or not, I have never been to Scotland or have any Scottish relatives.

In some ways this is a more modern book than Diana's previous creations, the advent of the mobile phone is an obvious example, and the mentioning of the illness is another. Pony books dont generally mention the rider's illnesses, the nearest they get is an attack of the "needle" (whatever that may be; I suspect it is another way of saying nerves). Again Neighbours is a mention of another thing (the TV programme, not the people who live nearby), TV is rarely mentioned in pony books. Presumably, people in pony books are too busy having adventures to bother about things such as TV, or in the case of the early books, very few people had TV, because they were so darned expensive. I have heard countless tales of people in the 1950s having only one television in the street, and I suppose having 101 neighbours around (the real people this time) to watch your tv was guess tough luck if you wanted peace and quiet. Or if you didn't like your neighbours, I guess you had to be uber nice to them if you wanted to watch their TV.

Anyway, back to the book. The main part is given away in the blurb, and there is a lovely detail in the way she ends up. Her parents are away, so feeling downtrodden, she goes to her granny's on horseback. The people she meets on the way, and the threat is so real that she faces. It's like you are almost there. With some pony books you feel that it is unreal, that it could never happen, but this one, it definitely not like that.

The twist is suprising at the end and totally unexpected. I really like this book, and is of the same high quality standard that we expect of Diana. It should appeal to the masses, but it is not lost either. It's surprising that many people dont talk about this book, I feel it deserves better recognition than what it does.

Next week: a Josephine book.

Saturday, 8 December 2007

Review: DIANA - Riding With The Lyntons

Riding With The Lyntons is this week's book. It was first published in 1956, making it one of Diana's earlier books.

The blurb reads:-

Suddenly we heard blaring car horns and the screech of brakes. Then the two ponies came clattering towards us down the wrong side of the road. The oncoming car didn't have a chance. Tyres skidded on the wet surface, there was a shrill whinny and then a dreadful, sickening silence...

Lesley can hardly believe her luck when she moves to the country and makes friends with the horse-mad Lyntons. But then she's blamed for the accident that ruins it all...

In some ways this book reminds me of last week's book Horses At Home & Friends Must Part, which is not surprising, as that book was Diana's last publication prior to this one. I guess that theme must have been fresh in her mind.

Like most of Diana's books, this one does have a morbid side to it, and it is certainly the most morbid of hers. It's not a cosy read. But don't let that put you off reading it, it is certainly worth taking a look at. The Armada edition is the easier copy to find, but it's not the easiest of books. A quick note: any edition published after 1982 has been revised. That particular Armada edition shown above does have quite a few illustrations: illustrator is uncredited. However I strongly suspect that they are the original which makes them by Sheila Rose.

The main element to this book is stated by the blurb and unlike the other books, it is not worth me going over it, as the best bits are above. However, it is wonderfully descriptive, the whole book is told by Lesley's point of view on everything. However, unlike The Pennyfields it is not boring. I feel it is slow to start, but worth it.

There is one tiny point that annoys me greatly; in the beginning (before Lesley discovers the Lyntons) when Lesley complains that she is bored (naturally being in a new area she doesnt know anyone), her dad calls her "a wretched little socialite". I think that it is highly unfair, as she didnt ask for her to move, and secondly it is not her fault she doesnt knows anyone. Thirdly, I feel it is down right nasty for her parents to call her that, and could be bordering on emotional abuse (perhaps in the 1950s it was acceptable for parents to call you names) and fourthly, living in the country is not everyone's idea of brilliance. Some people hate living in the country.

Like the Boy and the Donkey I feel it is better appreciated from an adult's point of view rather than a child's, and certainly not every single child is not comfortable with the death. Even for me, it threw me a little. It is more of an examinations of friendships and relationships with people, but done in a lovely, if somewhat morbid way. Not the most appealing of books in the whole; but again, I feel it is one of Diana's best.

Next week is the final Diana review for quite a while: it is The Long Ride Home. Two weeks time should see the start of Josephine.

Saturday, 1 December 2007

Review: DIANA - Horses At Home & Friends Must Part

Horses At Home/Friends Must Part is this weeks book.

It is actually 2 short stories combined into one volume, I have never seen them printed separately. It was first published in 1954.

The first picture on the right is the first edition and the second picture to the right is an Collins Pony Library edition, but there is not a blurb on those. I like the Collins Pony Library editions, they seem to have nice illustrations on the cover. The first edition is illustrated by Sheila Rose, but the Collins Pony Library edition is not illustrated.

The blurb reads:-

When Nicholas's and Clare's aunt was suddenly rushed into hospitial, everyone wanted to know what was to happen to her two famous show jumpers.

Nicholas had a suggestion.

"But it would be so easy, and Aunt couldn't afford to pay all that money to have them kept in a livery stable. Please let us have them. Please. We'll be dreadfully careful."

Their mother wavered. "Alright then. I give up. We'll have them for a day or two and see how you get on." And the children set about making the HORSES AT HOME...........

Horses At Home is the first story: it tells the story of Nicholas and Clare's famous showjumping Aunt (called Gay), who due to an illness, means that they are left to care for them. They quite often find themselves out of control (overhorsed springs to mind here), which leads to some incidents. Fortunately nothing deadly serious happens, and they get their reward when Aunt Gay is much better. To me, this has elements of Pat Smythe's (the showjumper) real life, and to a certain extent her books, but it is still a lovely story.

Friends Must Part is the second: it tells about Andy and her relationship with her pony and the people who live across the road. She has a pony called Peppermint, but is later replaced with a pony called Gingersnap. Unfortunately when she goes to buy Gingersnap her sister, Brandysnap is for sale. The people across the road chose Brandysnap, when in reality Andy wanted her first. There is a feud over this, which isnt helped with the 2 ponies wanting to be with each other. Fortunately, this is solved towards the end of the book.

I personally think that Horses At Home is the better story: perhaps why this is first. But they are both great stories and one of the easiest to get into. It is a pleasant light book which should appeal to everyone: however being 2 short stories there are some bits missing, and could be better if it was 2 normal length books. Still this is one of my favourite Diana books.

Saturday, 24 November 2007

Review: DIANA - Ponies In Peril

Ponies in Peril is this week's book. It is also the final installment in the Sandy and Fergus series. It was first published in 1979.

The blurb reads:-

The six ponies stood under the trees, watching us warily.

"Beautiful, aren't they?" said Jake. "Terrible to think that they'll end up on someone's dinner table."

When Sandy and Fergie learn that the ponies are destined for slaughter, they are determined to save them. If only they can raise the money to buy them, they can break them in and sell them to good homes. But how will they find six hundred pounds in two weeks? It seems hopeless - the ponies are surely doomed...

Like the first one in the series, the horses are more of a subplot, this is about raising money and community spirit. However, unlike Ponies in the Valley the horses are more predominent, as obviously, the money is for the ponies. But that is one thing that only takes up a quarter of the book, as in all pony books, it is pretty obvious that in the end they get the ponies.

The trials and tribulations of the ponies, being broken in, takes up a good part of the book, and is an enjoyable read. Unlike most pony books, they dont keep them.

It is also quite unique is that all the sisters chose to use the same name for a pony. One of the ponies here is called Jigsaw. The name Jigsaw also appears in the following books by Josephine: Pony Club Challenge and Pony Club Trek. In Christine, the entire Black Pony Inn series features a Jigsaw, and also in the book Sundance Saves the Day. However, as Sundance Saves the Day is based on Julip horses, and the names were Julip's choosing and not Christine's.

As it is a final part of the series, I feel that it doesnt do it justice at the end. Although there is a satisfactory outcome to the end of the book, unlike the Pony Seekers series, there isnt a natural conclusion. I feel that Diana could have taken the series further, perhaps she got fed up of them or this one didnt sell as well?

Sunday, 18 November 2007

A couple of changes afoot

Regular viewers may notice that I have been tweaking around with the blog. A couple more pony blog related links have appeared and a couple of new sections.

I decided to put the labels side on it, as obviously, due to the fact the sheer number of books they wrote, that it will be very time consuming in 2 years time to go through the number of posts to find a review about The Boy and The Donkey (aka The Donkey Race) for example. This is particularly true for Christine, who as well as being the most prolific of the sisters, has written tons of books, and it is her that I am leaving last (as well as the fact that my want list is longer for Christine that Josephine).

Also, if like me, when you were first starting to collect the P-T books (or any pony books), you think from childhood you have finished the series and read them all, only to find that there are tons more. This is particularly true for me about the Jackie books, my mother very kindly bought me the Knight/Hodder editions of the early 1990s, and for some strange reason they only published 6 books. Not the first 6, but (apart from Jackie Won A Pony) a random 6. I was most annoyed to find out that there are indeed 16!! Fortunately, except for the elusive Jackie's Steeplechase Adventure I have them all, albeit different editions. So I have rectified this problem, as every single book that belongs to a "series", I have labelled with an appropriate tag. Sometimes, I have found, that it is not obvious a book is part of a series: a book title with the words Phantom Horse would be obvious, but until it is pointed out or you read it for yourself, you wouldnt know that Riders On The March and They Rode To Victory were the same series. So quickly someone can click on the series title and find out which book belong to the series.

Speaking of Christine, Jane Badger has finally finished her Christine section on her website, she has very kindly acknowledged me, both in the article and in her blog. She has kindly done a section on the Black Beauty's Family series of books, which is very useful, it does pose a headache trying to work out what story is in what book. If only Knight published them all separately, then it would make life easier. But, now, with the exception of Black Raven and the Witch, Black Piper and Black Pioneer, it's a case of finding the edition you like the best, if you dont have them already in your collection.

I had a very fruitful pony book week. I received in the post the following books:-

Little Black Pony by Christine Pullein-Thompson
The Horse Sale by Christine Pullein-Thompson
The Best Pony for Me! by Christine Pullein-Thompson
Black Beauty's Family 1 by Diana and Christine Pullein-Thompson
Six Ponies (Fidra books edition) by Josephine Pullein-Thompson
Fly By Night (Fidra books edition) by K M Peyton
The Ten Pound Pony by Veronica Westlake

The Horse Sale is the lovely Sheila Rose edition, which you can see on the right. As previously said I prefer illustrated over photographic covers, though as far as I am aware of, there are only 2 editions of this book (for some strange reason I keep on thinking there are 3), both with illustrated covers. But this one stood out for it's sheer simplicity. Some of the pony books out there with illustrated covers have such busy backgrounds that it takes it's beauty away. That is why I was particularly impressed with the cover for Veronica Westlake's The Ten Pound Pony (I dont have a scan of that), as it is done quite simply too. There are times when illustrators go over the top. Sadly, with the exception of Anne Bullen, the P-T books dont have the same illustrators consistently, and some of them range from the superb (Anne Bullen) to the lesser quality (Peter Clover, he did The Best Pony for Me). Sadly, Anne Bullen died in 1963, so it is understandable that she couldnt do them (considering the sisters last published a pony book less than 10 years ago) all.

I have also planned out roughly when I am doing each book, of course, this is subject to change, as (shock horror!) I dont have all the P-T pony books. If, for some reason, I dont have that particular book, then of course, I will have to move onto another P-T book. But never fear, they will get done eventually. Plus, I dont have a crystal ball, if some misfortune occurs and I cant get online, then of course, I cant update the blog. I am undecided (this is when it comes to Christine), to do some of the books together: such as the Candy series (Candy Goes to the Gymkhana and Candy Stops A Train) or the Sophy series (I Want That Pony!, The Best Pony For Me!, The Pony Test and The Pony Picnic) as they are meant for the younger age group than what the majority of Christine's books were for, and they only take about 5 mins to read, as obviously, they have less pages and bigger (typeface wise) words than compared to say, Phantom Horse. There's not much you can say without giving the story away on those. But I will do them, never fear!

I'll probably tweak it again in the future, I am undecided at the moment whether the Blog Archive should come before or after the profile.

If anyone else knows of a pony blog or a suitable pony book related link, please send it to me, and I will consider it.

Saturday, 17 November 2007

Review: DIANA - Ponies On The Trail

Ponies on the Trail is this week's book and is the continuation of the Sandy and Fergie series. It was first published in 1978 and like many books of the time, the first edition was a paperback. However, Severn House decided to republish it in hard back, and the photo (right) is the hardback edition.

The blurb reads:-

"An adventure holiday", said Jake. "That's what I've planned. And you two will help me run it. We'll take a dozen riders for six days, and provide them with a pony, food, equipment - the lot. And we'll sleep in old shepherds' huts up in the hills."

"Brilliant!" cried Fergie. "Mimosa and Silverstar will love it."

But the riders turn out to be a very odd bunch indeed - and Sandy and Fergie find themselves heading for a week full of mystery and excitement...

Unlike that week's (and the previous one in the series) book, this book has more of a horsey plot. As stated, the book is about them going off and doing an (give or take) week long trek. The overview is that they turn out to be beginners (with 2 exceptions), and of course beginners give any pony book author a fair more deal to write about than experienced people. In fact, this quote tells you a lot about the sort of people they were:-

The photograph showed a blonde girl with a slightly tip-tilted nose sitting on a beach in a bikini. Her skin was golden as honey and her eyes grape hyacinth blue. It was the sort of picture you might expect to find on the cover of the magazine.

"Crumbs!" cried Fergie. "She looks like Miss World."

Trust men to think of that. The mix of ages, also make it interesting, and a lot of the book is taken up with the dynamics of the group, which also an unusual angle for a pony book. But dont let that put you off.

It's full of thrills and spills. The descriptive style of Diana never makes it dull, where this could be. There's almost an adventure on every page. It doesn't have a big event, just the backdrop of the trek and lots of small ones. But they fit together beautifully.

Interestingly, very much like the book Cassidy In Danger/This Pony is Dangerous, there is a reference to a relative of theirs; May Wedderburn Cannan. May (Wedderburn) Cannan was their mother's sister, and curiously, Wedderburn is one of Josephine's middle names. May died some 5 years prior to this book being published.

A good continuation of the series, and although it isn't as solid is the Ponies in the Valley it is a worthy sequel. A book that doesn't come up as often as Diana's other books, but not a very expensive one.

Saturday, 10 November 2007

Review: DIANA - Ponies In the Valley

Ponies In the Valley is this week's book. It was first published in 1976, and is also part of a series. It is also the final series I have left to do, the other books I have left, which are 5 excluding this one, the vast majority are not part of a series.

Before you all moan, yes, I have discounted the "Black's". This is because when I got hold of my copy of Black Beauty's Family with the elusive Black Raven in, I also discovered there is another Black Beauty's relative story by Diana, which is entitled Black Piper. So because there were so many editions of Black Beauty's Family/Clan, and they were published under different names, I am making sure that there are no other "Black" stories hidden in the woodwork. But fear not, I am planning to do the "Black" stories at one point, it will all be together, at the same couple of weeks, that I will tackle the following books: It Began with Picotee, Fair Girls and Grey Horses and Pullein-Thompson Treasury Of Horse And Pony Stories. Before you all moan (again!) I know that Fair Girls and Grey Horses is a non fictional book, and this blog is about their (pony) fictional books. But, like their mother's books, I feel this has a valid place. It gives a fascinating insight into their childhood. I could prattle on about their autobiography, but before you know it, I might as well change the title, as I would have done a review. But back to this week's book.

The blurb reads:-

Do you know what's it like to long for a pony...?

Sandy had dreamed for years of her own grey mare. Then her parents decide to pack up their city lift and live on a farm - with stables! And when Fergus finds Mimosa at the horse sale, it seems as if all Sandy's dreams are coming true...

But Mimosa is uncontrollable - and if Sandy and Fergus cannot manage her, they will have to sell her. Why does she behave so badly? The answer comes as a complete shock...

And so does the dreadful discovery, one night, that the gates are open, and the field empty...

The "Sandy and Fergus" series of books is one that I enjoy, even more so than the Pony Seekers series. It tells of Sandy's desire to have one, their upheaval to the Welsh Marches (it doesnt given an exact area, but it does mention that is in the Wales border, and Shropshire isnt close by. As I am not that far from Shropshire myself, the area I live in is generally known as the Welsh Marches, though I suspect that they were based further south than I am), and their life.

It tells of how they adjusted from life in the city to life in the country. Not just them, but life as a whole. In some ways it is more realistic, though it doesnt have any tragedies. Anyone moving from the town to the country (and vice versa) can relate to that. How they struggle to fit in and finally be accepted by almost everyone.

There is a horsey element, like the blurb says. Mimosa (and the borrowed pony: Bourneville) are good solid equine characters, and unlike Diana's other books, there isnt really a horsey accident. In many ways, the getting of Mimosa, and the influence on their life is more of a subplot than anything else.

There are two interesting twists: horse wise and non horse wise, but there is enough to make everyone happy. A good solid book with an excellent start to the series. In fact I would say it is good enough to stand on it's own.

Saturday, 3 November 2007

Review: DIANA - Cassidy In Danger/This Pony Is Dangerous

Cassidy In Danger is this week's book. It was first published in 1979, but in the 1990s, J A Allen republished it as This Pony Is Dangerous.

The blurb reads:-

'Cassidy's vicious - he's a killer', they all said. 'He'll have to be destroyed.'

But left to her own devices for the holidays, Katie determines to save the beautiful bay pony. Can she succeed? And if she does, will she ever be able to make him safe to ride?

If anyone is unfamilar with the J A Allen editions of the P-T books, approximately 3/4ers of the back is taken with information about the author. Hence why it is so short. But it can be useful though, it wasnt until I got hold of a J A Allen edition that I found out that the P-T sisters had a brother, who is of course Denis Cannan. There is no mention of him on this edition though.

Dangerous ponies seem to be a thing that Diana likes: it is not the first time she had written about a supposedly dangerous pony. After all that is what A Pony To School is about.

The book starts with Katie, the main character of the story, being sent to her godmother's house and her joys of getting there. Interestingly, there is an reference to Georgette Heyer, a friend of her mother's.

Katie, after discovering that the local riding school charges £4 an hour for riding lessons (she was only left with £10) feels rather alone and that is when she discovers Cassidy. She also discovers later from her godmother why Cassidy is deemed dangerous, but like most books, it makes it sound like the previous rider's fault. Left to her own devices a lot, she makes friends with Cassidy, and ensures that he will be saved. Consequently, she spends her spare time with Cassidy, and meets a neighbour called Matthew (another reused name, it was in The Hermit's Horse there was a boy called Matthew). They become good friends, and makes a good additional character. She rides Cassidy, and tries to retrain him.

There is a time when Cassidy almost loses his life, but like all good books he gets saved. In some ways it has elements of Christine's Phantom Horse In Danger, but this book was published a year before Phantom Horse in Danger, so I guess it must be a twin thing. They say that twins are psychically linked after all.

Whether Cassidy continues to be dangerous or is really dangerous isnt really answered by the book, unlike A Pony To School the answer is never really given. It's up to the reader whether or not they want to believe it. But the main thing that Cassidy isnt put to his death, and presumably, he lives until an old age. Pony books never really deal with that.

It's a little bit dated that they refer to 1980s bands/artists. As J A Allen decided to revise this book, I feel that they should have re jigged a little bit by saying "the latest bands", or something along those lines. I feel that it isn't as strong as compared to A Pony To School on the dangerous front, but it's more appealing to today's people who are more used to being fed a diet of Heartland or similar junk. In some ways, this is better than A Pony To School. But it's more appealing to most people, and less old fashioned. But it is a good book, and not one that is hard to find.

Many thanks to Jane Badger for the scan of Cassidy In Danger.

Saturday, 27 October 2007

Some P-T/blog related thoughts

I have had some fruitful pony book parcels this week. I managed to acquire (many thanks to bevi who put me on the right track) the edition of the Black Beauty's Family which has that elusive Black Raven in.

Which got me thinking. As I was sitting on my bed last night, after helping Jane (of Jane Badger books) with her soon to be published Christine section, that how long it would take to get through every single P-T books I have (including those I have left on my wish list). So I started to write it all out. 104 books. Which means, that taking into account, that I am only doing one book a week, that it will take 2 years (since there are 52 weeks in a year). That is a long time, and I bet by the time it is finished, things will move on in my life. Of course, most of Christine's later books are for a younger age groups than most of hers, so that wont take as long to do, but it's one commitment. I just hope that I manage to find all the ones that are on my want list. I suspect that The Horse Sale will be the hardest, since I am after that lovely edition that Sheila Rose did the cover for (blue background), which is harder to find, than other edition of the same book. I must admit that I do prefer illustrated covers over photographic covers of books, illustrations seem timeless and have a certain charm. I had a look at my local county library's website, and they do have 20 P-T books, and fortunately one of them is on my want list, so hopefully I can request it if I am desperate (since it is not located at my local or the main library). Though sadly, with the exception of Fair Girls and Grey Horses, they do not have any of the author's adult titles.

I also managed to get hold of my last wanted Joanna Cannan book: They Bought Her A Pony. Which means now that I have all the Joanna Cannan pony books. I have not read any of her other non pony related titles, as again, like her daughter's adult works, my local library does not stock any (and there are none in the county, the nearest I got was May Cannan).

But it got me thinking: once about 2 years down the line: should I do Joanna? As it says on my first post, this is mainly about the P-T's. Sometimes, kind of like today, I will go off track and stray away from the P-T's but this will always be pony book related (and yes, shock horror!! I do have other pony books which arent by the sisters). But I think Joanna does have a rightful place here: if she was not born, then we would not have the P-T's. Also if it wasnt for Joanna encouraging them and the sisters seeing her writing throughout their childhood (had their mother been a housewife, then maybe we wouldnt have the lovely books we have today), then they would not have been tempted to start what is obviously a very successful and fruitful career, both for themselves and pony book sellers alike. I doubt that one pony book seller has not had at least 1 P-T book pass through their hands. I am sure Jane has plenty in her stock room!! Also, Vanessa at Fidra has definitely reprinted 2 of Joanna's works and Josephine's Six Ponies, if there wasnt a demand for P-T/Joanna Cannan books, then she wouldnt go down that route.

It als0 got me thinking: what is the most expensive pony fictional book (not just P-T books)? Previously, I would have said that Primrose Cumming's Silver Snaffles was the most expensive, being such a hard to find book in the first place, and definitely commanding a high price. However with the soon to be released Fidra books edition coming out, and for the maximum price of £15, I bet a lot of people will be going for that. Great if you are a buyer (myself included: I have ordered a copy), I suppose it is horrible if you are a bookseller. What was a nice little earner is probably sitting longer unsold than it did before, though there are some purists who want the original edition (and have the money for it!). I dont know the answer: the most I spent on a single book was £45 on an Caroline Akrill hb edition of I'd Rather Not Gallop (and it is signed to boot).

Anyway, here is my want list, if anyone is interested. I have not included titles which I have already and want to replace with certain editions, I'll leave that until later, as it is not something I am desperate for. If you have any of these, please let me know. Just one thing: I am not interested in hardback editions of books which are missing their dustjacket: I cant stand that. Though of course, if it is something with a pictorial cover (such as the Collins Pony Library series), I'll make an exception. Like I previously said, I prefer illustrated over photographic covers.

Josephine Pullein-Thompson

# Proud Riders
# Save The Ponies!

To make matters worse, there is an book also called Save The Ponies by Gillian Baxter as well as Josephine. They arent the same book: Gillian's was published in 1971, whereas Josephine's was published in 1983. You would think that the publishers would check there hasnt been a book with the same title, considering Gillian's was only published 12 years before. Anyway, I am definitely not after the Gillian Baxter edition.

Christine Pullein-Thompson

# A Pony In Distress
# Incredible Pony Tales
# Little Black Pony
# Magical Pony Tales
# Ponies In The Blizzard
# Ponies In The Forest
# Ponies In The Park
# The Best Pony For Me! (am now waiting for this one, but I dont count it being off the want list until it is physically in my hands)

Review: DIANA - A Pony Found

A Pony Found is the last in the "Pony Seekers" series and was first published in 1983. It is not illustrated.

The blurb reads:-

Lynne, David and Briony Fletcher loved horses, and everything to do with them, more than anything else in the world. That was why they founded the Pony Seekers in the first place. But sometimes the best intentions in the world can't make things go right. In the first twelve months, when Briony was cheated by experienced dealers and Lynne's beloved pony, Candy, fell ill, it seemed that everything was going wrong. And then, a miracle - the Pony Seekers were offered a yard of stables by a wealthy local man, and it seemed that their problems would be solved.

But Lynne, David and Briony soon discovered that even miracles have snags.

First of all I totally disagree with that blurb and I dont think it is well written. Ironically, it comes from the same publisher as my copy (Sparrow) of The Pony Seekers and they clearly say on the back Lynne and David Fletcher saw a terrible summer looming ahead. There would be no riding because their parents could no longer afford to keep ponies for them. Hence why the Pony Seekers were founded, and partially because Briony wanted to have a horse career, but could not face training horses after a tragic accident. But I apologise if you havent read the other 2 stories, because now some of the best bits in the first book has now been revealed.

Anyway, like it said things dont go right. Mirabelle, the daughter of the owner of the stables is a complete and utter pain, basically, she expects them to do everything as they arent paying for the cost of the stables. Her ambition is to go to Wembley, and she sacrifices her ponies for that, expecting Briony to get her the best. Again, like the other two books they seem to leap from one disaster to the next, but things turn out. Interestingly, Fred's character is revealed, and although tactless, is not the blot he is made out to be.

But, things do work out in the end, although there is a little bit of sadness that the Pony Seekers are no more.

But still it is a fitting end to what is a good series. It should satisfy most readers, and it comes to the end of my review of the series. Next week, a new Diana book.

Saturday, 20 October 2007

Review: DIANA - A Foal For Candy

A Foal For Candy is the next instalment of the Pony Seekers series, first being published again like the previous book in 1981. It is not illustrated.

The blurb reads:-

'I reckon that cream mare is in foal.'

Fred's words rang in my ears as I walked down the lane. I dreamt of the beautiful foal that my favourite pony Candy would produce. Then a terrible thoughs crossed my mind. Perhaps we could not afford to keep a pony and foal through the winter months. It was more important than ever that my brother David and I should help to make the Pony Seekers agency a success...

As the title suggests, the storyline is obvious. (Candy is, btw, a pony, and not a person) But there is more going on than just the foal, and this follows the ups and downs of the pony selling business. They are still recovering from the illness that struck in the previous book The Pony Seekers and of course, Fred is seen as an unwelcome tactless blot in the storyline.

There is a good moral tale to this (seems to be a reoccurring theme in this series): always be aware when reading descriptions. As Candy is pregnant, they decide to buy a Dartmoor mare believed to be in foal to a famous stallion. Later that proves to be untrue, and that is when it is pointed out.

Unlike the previous book, there is a good fortune at the end, so it looks like things are going right for once.

I like this book, unlike some books, the sequel can be poor. But this one isnt, and again, appeals to most people. It has the usual flair and style we know of Diana, and if you like the first one in the series, then you will definitely like this one.

Saturday, 13 October 2007

Review: DIANA - The Pony Seekers

The Pony Seekers is one of Diana's last pony books, and is the last series she did. It was first published in 1981. It is not illustrated.

The blurb reads:-

The Pony Seekers Care. We will find you the ideal pony for your needs and also a new home for your old pony. Personal attention and expert advice. Contact: Briony Fletcher, Blackwood Farm, Dickensfield, Knitts End, Glos.

Lynne and David Fletcher saw a terrible summer looming ahead. There would be no riding because their parents could no longer afford to keep ponies for them. But the situation is saved when their elder sister Briony, a famous show jumper, decided to enlist their help to set up The Pony Seekers - an agency that guarantees to supply clients with ponies suited to their needs. All goes well with the first few ponies but then disaster strikes and Lynne and David realise that they must do something desperate if Briony's enterprise is not to be ruined...

This story (and series) is basically about pony dealing. Only Briony doesnt call herself a dealer because she is "rather more superior than that, more caring". It tells of fate and fortune, problems that dealers do to cover things up, and the hard way of things that go wrong.

It is a good book and a good series, but some degree of morality to the tale, that you should always get it vet checked. An illness sweeps the yard causes by one of the ponies harbouring it, and if a vet check did occur then may be it wouldn't have happened. It is a tale of family enterprise and one that is full of adventure. Not thrilling adventure, but still. There is a blot on the landscape with a neighbour called Fred, some of his remarks are so cutting you feel like hitting him.

I like this series of books, and it should appeal to most people. The Pony Seekers is a good start to it, and has the usual style that we are accustomed to of Diana.

Saturday, 6 October 2007

Review: DIANA - The Hermit's Horse

The Hermit's Horse is one of Diana's harder to find books, not being really republished, except for 10 years later. Again, it is another one which the first edition is a paperback. It was first published in 1974.

The blurb reads:-

Matthew and Sophie are forbidden to go near the neglected, ivy-clad old house. The hermit that lives there is said to be mad or dangerous. But the unexpected arrival of a big bay horse begins a strange friendship between the children and the man with the mysterious past.

ew hopes and happiness grows, especially with their plans for the Frinkley Horse Show. Then suddenly violence and fear strike! Can the hermit ever find peace now? And what is he afraid of? Will Matthew and his horse ever be able to prove themselves...?

Unlike most pony books, the emphasis is mainly on Matthew, which obviously is a boy.

This book is big on misconceptions, it is turns out the hermit is anything but mad, he just wants to be left alone. I suppose to an outside world, the friendship seems weird, considering the age gap, and if this was a modern world, he would be labelled a paedophile or something, definitely regarded with suspicion. But it proves that the unlikeliest of friendship can grow, and the added adventure of there being a horse is the most common factor.

It is also a tale of horse rescue and rehabilitation, since the horse was a rescue one. In a way, it is a story about rehabilitation of people too, as the hermit doesnt deal with the outside world, and what happens when he does. It is a quiet story, and often overlooked, but one of the best, as the hermit's character is really defined. The cover I feel lets it down, but I think this is one of Diana's gems, which has less publicity and generally less well known than her other books. If you can, I think you should read it.

Oh and some news about my want list. I have only got 2, possibly 3, Josephine books left on it to get. I say 3, because there is some doubt about whether Black Raven does exist. Certainly there is no sign of it on abebooks. Copac and the British Library dont have it in their records, however they are sometimes inaccurate as I know of a Christine P-T book which does not appear on there. It's never shown up on ebay either. Whatever, it is mighty strange. So if anyone does have it, please post. My Christine want list is down to 9 books now. Though I have yet to read all my P-T books. So once Diana is done (which should be by the end of the year, unless something goes wrong), Josephine is next one of the P-T's to be tackled.

Saturday, 29 September 2007

Review: DIANA - The Pennyfields

The Pennyfields is a slightly bizarre book. First of all, like The Boy and The Donkey/The Donkey Race this should be an slightly OT topic, as unlike Diana's pony books, they do not a pony. However the Pennyfields (Pennyfield being the surname of the family) do have a donkey, so this could be classified as a pony book, rather than something like The Battle Of Clapham Common which is obviously not a pony book.

The blurb reads:-

"Gosh! The pig!" cries Marie, leaping to her feet.

In a moment they were on the pavement in time to see the fat white sow dash down a side street. They ran after her. The onlookers roared with laughter, and school boys whistled derisively.

Marie, a fast runner, soon gained on the pig. Jennet was laughting so much she could hardly run at all. She told Soloman to head it, and Soloman, mistaking her order, nipped the pig's heels, causing her to run the faster....

The Pennyfields is a happy story, full of good fun.

I am not sure I agree with the last comment. Of all the words, I dont think happy is the right thing for a book. As for full of good fun.....

The basis of the story is that the Pennyfields want a pony, a canoe and rather bizarrely, a shotgun (if they cant afford a horse). This story is basically an account of them trying to get hold of the money, as they are fed up of being poor.

Well to be honest, I found this book rather boring. It takes place during the Second World War (it was after the third time of reading about the Black Market I finally cottoned on), which accounts for them being poor. This is Diana's third book, being first published in 1949. Albeit rationing did carry on until the 1950s in the UK though. It is the first time that I struggled to finish a P-T book, and to date, the only one. The blurb doesnt help much either, and is to be honest, is one for the true fan of the P-T books. Thankfully it is not an expensive book on ebay.

The Pennyfields carry out all sorts of bizarre tasks to get their money, including cleaning windows, but in perspective, I suppose during WW2, the men who would normally do these kind of things would be in the trenches, or in P.O.W. camps. The only men around would be too old, or too injured to do these things. Though, why would you want to clean windows, when they were blacked out at night and you couldnt see much through them anyway, with all the safety tape on them should they be in an area where a bomb would have landed. In most cases the things that they would be doing, most children I suspect would do them without pay, as part of the "war effort".

Although there are a few incidents, there is nothing spectacular about this book, it is not one that grabs you and unlike the pony books, isnt very interesting for any child. This is the first time I am struggling to say anything about this book. In the end, they do get the pony, though it is unclear (thankfully) whether or not they get the shotgun. Like I said, this is one for the true P-T fan.

Review: DIANA - Only A Pony

Only A Pony is the final book in the Augusta/Christina series. Interestingly, this is published much later than the earlier series, and like most of the P-T's later books, the first edition is a paperback. I Wanted a Pony was first published in 1946, Three Ponies and Shannan was published in 1947 and A Pony To School was first published in 1950. It is rather strange to think that Only A Pony was first published in 1980, some 30 years after the last offering. Perhaps Armada put pressure on Diana to come up with an new pony book (as apart from the Pony Seekers series, and The Long Ride Home) this was one of the last books she wrote. Or maybe Diana had some fondness for Christina and Augusta, and wanted to, albeit briefly, revive them? Maybe more was planned but as the gap had been so long between the rest of the series that people didnt share the same fondness for them and this was not the same success commercially as the previous books?

Maybe also it is a P-T trait (or even a twin trait), there is a gap of 15 years between Christine's Phantom Horse and the subsequent book in the series Phantom Horse Comes Home? Josephine did not suffer from that trait, although in her series there are a couple of gaps, nothing as long as those two.

This book is not illustrated. 

The blurb reads:-

"Who's there?" cried Christina.

Moonlight shone through the stable window, Lucifer gave a low growl and, trembling, I raised the poker. Then our hearts missed a beat. Staring at us with an expression of interest was a small roan pony.

Also hidden in the stable is Nico, a young boy who has run away from home to save his pony from a cruel horse dealer. Augusta and Christina agree to help him, but soon find themselves on the wrong side of the law, and heading for danger...

The book begins with Christina and Augusta being left alone, with the exception of Mignon, a sort of French help. However Mignon leaves them, which means that they are totally left alone. But that does not bother them, as they can cook on their own (Christina being the kind of person she was in Three Ponies and Shannan meant that she never had too cook). Why some people should not be able to cook their own stuff, in the 1980s I do not know, as unlike the late 1940s/1950s, servants are less commonplace. Also, the illogical time gap means that Lucifier, Christina, Augusta, Daybreak and Serenade havent aged, and certainly the animals would be dead by then (or the ponies extremely old!). Maybe this was supposed to take place in the early 1950s, but there is no setting (time wise) given in this book. But we'll ignore that. It is during their time alone that they discover Nico and his pony, who is called Rainbow.

It turns out that like the pony in the previous book, Rainbow needs reschooling and is being threatened with being sold by Nico's father, so to avoid this fate (Christina and Augusta boast of being able to reschool problem ponies), they agree to hide this pony. However he is later found, and there is a nasty incident involving a tower, and Nico behaves like a wild animal, frightened to get caught, because of what would happen to Rainbow.

But things, like most pony books do work out. There is a brief revisit to Augusta by her cousins and her aunt, who we first met in I Wanted a Pony. Although her cousins treat her with some disgust, there is a much better atmosphere and slightly friendlier attitude than the last time we met them.

All in all it is a enjoyable book. To me, it does not have the same charm as the earlier books in the series but still, that could be due to the gap between them. It is probably the easiest to get into, and one of the better ones. This should appeal to most people, though with the addition of Nico, there is an element of it being "of the times", when books in the 1980s were watered down, and with the exception of the P-T's, being poor quality. But it should appeal to most people anyway.

Saturday, 22 September 2007

Review: DIANA - A Pony To School

A Pony To School is the continuation of the Augusta/Christina series, and is the third. I am not sure what colour Clown (the pony referred to the title), is as in my copy (an 1978 Armada edition) he is clearly pictured and described as being skewbald, but in earlier editions he is a grey. Whether the previous editions are wrong, or Armada (in some fit of insanity) changed the original colour of the pony, I do not know. Having only had this edition in my fair hands, I cannot confirm or deny this. But now, just having seen another edition (published by Severn House), which shows a brown pony on the cover, I strongly suspect that somewhere down the line the colour has been changed.

The blurb reads (taken from the Armada edition on the right):-

As we rode home, I thought of how Clown had cowered in fear when Ted Dunn had finally managed to catch him. I wondered if Christina and I would ever turn him into a well-schooled pony. Then suddenly I was determined to succeed at all costs, not because he was beautiful, but because I never wanted him to look so miserable and frightened again.

Then Augusta and Christina discover that the skewbald pony is a rearer - and if they cant cure him of his dreadful habit he will have to be destroyed...

The original book (illustrated cover) is illustrated by Anne Bullen. However the later edition (the one with the photographic cover) is not illustrated. 

Admittedly this book is balanced a bit more in favour towards Augusta than the previous series (and last week's) title Three Ponies and Shannan since this book is told by either Christina or Augusta, every other chapter is by one of the two. Interestingly, this is a similar style that is used in Diana's joint work Fair Girls and Grey Horses, but still, you cant help feeling that the emphasis is put more on Christina.

Christina is a more nicer and rounded character than the spoilt person she was in Three Ponies and Shannan, but this book does have a lot of an element of fantasy about it. With most of Diana's books, you can imagine that the events which do happen in them could have happened in the 40s, 50s etc (or whenever the book was set), but to give 2 young people, an rearer is not at all wise. As the sisters admitted in Fair Girls and Grey Horses, they learnt to automatically reject and definitely steer clear of rearers. Secondly, most rearers cannot be cured, unless you are fortunate enough to have one that was caused by a simple case of a badly fitting saddle (and are wise enough to sort out a proper fitting saddle). I am not talking about horses that have reared once because of genuine fright or ones that have been trained to do so on command. Clown is also a 5 year old, which is even more deadly. Even more, when Ted Duanne (Clown's owner) got them to take on the pony, he "neglected" to mention that he was a rearer.

Still there is a nice reference to a book called Equitation, which presumably is a reference to Henry Wynmalen’s Equitation, a book which heavily influenced all three sisters.

It is a good book, which seems to urging on the moral high ground that if something goes wrong with a young pony, it is best to start reschooling straight away. Which is what they do. The story is basically an account of what happens when they start reschooling, and the incidents which happen when Clown is ridden. However, they do start to discover the cause of Clown's rearing, which again, makes a good moral for this story, that a good rider/owner should always check if there is a cause for a pony's misbehaviour, too many riders say "the pony is a bad one", when a vet/saddler check or a course of lessons could stop it. Thankfully this book has a happy ending, and obviously the pony does not rear. There is a tragedy in the story though.

Incidentally, the subject of dangerous ponies is not a subject not forgotten about - the book Cassidy in Danger/This Pony is Dangerous is about a potentially dangerous pony too. I wonder if in Diana's pony schooling life, she always took on the "dangerous" ones?

I feel that this book is the second best (or even the best) out of the series, as it is a lighter and better tone (not to mention better written) than the others. If you can sit through Three Ponies and Shannan without giving up, then I can guarantee you will enjoy this one more. I also feel that this is one of the better Diana books too. The final one in the series is Only A Pony, which I will be covering next week. I will also be doing an extra review next week too, the book to be decided.

Sunday, 16 September 2007

Review: DIANA - Three Ponies and Shannan

Three Ponies and Shannan is the sequel to last week's book: I Wanted A Pony. Unlike I Wanted A Pony, this focuses on Christina, who through a Pony Club camp, meets Augusta, the star of the previous book. Unfortunately, for some reason, that is the tone of the rest of the series (A Pony To School and Only A Pony). I have no idea why Diana chose to take that route, as now Augusta is resigned to be a secondary character (if somewhat minor) now. You could easily be forgiven for thinking that it is not in the same series as I Wanted A Pony.

This edition is not illustrated. 

The blurb reads:-


The barn looked romantic in the moonlight and the ponies seemed to be pleased to see me...but my knees knocked, my hands shook. Filled with despair, I crept forward. Did a drowned boy await me? As I gazed into the dark depths of the well, I could see no red hair, no grasping hand, nothing but the bubbles on the water...

Then suddenly there was a splash, and Terence appeared, desperately trying to keep himself afloat. His face was not deadly pale like those of drowning people described in books, but he appeared frantic and struck out widely with his arms, crying: "Help me. Quick, help me!"

Discounting the lack of Augusta, this makes an interesting story. Christina is obviously a rich girl, and in some ways, rather like Augusta's cousins. Her life is involved with nothing but shows, but to me, she seems richer than Augusta's cousins, having a butler (apart from a groom, Augusta's cousins have only a maid) as well as groom. There is talk of Lobster , which even in these days, are not cheap. Through a series of events, she managed to get a dog (that is where the Shannan bit comes from), though she has the three ponies already.

The book goes along quite nicely and nothing extraordinary happens (unless you count the incidents with Shannan, which make pleasant reading), until the camp. Apart from the aforementioned meeting of Augusta, she is forced, through Shannan's adventures to change herself (even falling into a pond at one point, and later, saving Terence), as previously she had been incredibly spoilt, not daring to look after the ponies herself (which is what the other characters of the story do). Her parents do spoil her, so much so, that she hadnt got to think for herself - even to the point it was a sin to get muddy. The gymkhana at the end makes a good end to the story.

It is a easy book to get into, and not too heavy going, unlike some of Diana's, but still for me, the shift of focus in the rest of the series onto Christina rather than Augusta, is somewhat of an annoyance. If this had been a focus on Christina, and the rest of the series had been equally on both of them (since Augusta turns out to be pretty important), then it could be forgiven.

Sunday, 9 September 2007

Review: DIANA - I Wanted A Pony

I Wanted a Pony is the book I have chosen for this week.

It has a special place in my heart. Not only because this is Diana's first ever book on her own (it was published in 1946 - the same year as her joint work It Began with Picotee), but it was also my first Diana book. This edition dates from the 1970s, but it was bought second hand in the early-mid 1990s ( where I bought it from closed down in 1997). The original price is 20p, but I paid 40p (the price tag is still written inside). Also, this is the first book she wrote which is part of a series (the others being Three Ponies and Shannan, A Pony To School and Only A Pony). I will cover the rest of the series over the next few weeks.

Besides, at one point, we all can relate to the title, I am sure that 99% (if not all) of my readers are pony mad (is it possible to love pony books and not like ponies?) and of course, we wanted a pony at one point. Some of us are still waiting, whereas for some of it did come true.

This edition is illustrated, but the illustrator is not credited. However they do look like they are the same illustrations as in the first edition, which are by Anne Bullen.

The blurb on the back reads:-

"Dear Augusta - I shall be very greatful if you will accept this small present in return for so gallantly saving my farm from being destroyed....."

Fifteen pounds all for herself. Augusta cant believe her luck. Now she would be able to have her dearest wish - a pony of her own. Her three cousins, who think they are such marvellous riders, laugh at Augusta and her little grey pony. But she works hard at schooling him in preparation for the Stokely Show; and even though her cousins are very discouraging she has a surprise in store for them, for Augusta and Daybreak start winning prizes of their own.

If you can get past the fact that you can no longer buy a pony for £15, then this makes an interesting book and one I enjoy. I like the fact that it is told from Augusta's point of view, and the sheer bad manners (I get the feeling they never wanted her to live at their house) that her cousins show makes a good background for the story. They live in a place called Fledgewood, which is in Flintshire, which bears a bit of truth. As all of the PT's books are based in the UK (most of them England, though there are a couple of them in Scotland), there is a case of there being a real life Flintshire, whereas all the places they mention are completely fictional. I wonder if Diana knew that (and Christine, as one of her books also mentions a Flintshire too)? (I live in the county bordering the real life Flintshire by the way, and used to live 2 miles from the border.) Only in the real life Flintshire, there certainly isnt a Fledgewood (as mentioned in my first post, I am in North East Wales, and 99% of the places have Welsh names). Anyway, her cousins life revolves around shows, and one of them, Jill, even gets a showjumper in the book. The consequences of what happens when Jill tries out a potential purchase, Topper is a great addition to the book.

Anyway, her cousin, though not nasty, leave Augusta on her own, as there is no suitable pony for her (the last time they saw her riding was not successful, so they do not trust her with any of their ponies. However, as Augusta admits, she did improve after that, so she would have probably ok on their ponies), so at one point, she does a walk after her own, and this in turn, causes her to discover the fire, which leads to the fifteen pounds. As obviously the fifteen pounds let her buy the pony (though she did have to make a few personal sacrifices herself) that is how she got Daybreak (without her aunt's or cousin's knowledge). Although Augusta does have a few problems with Daybreak, these are soon sorted out, and you can tell she had fun.

It is good that she could prove to her cousins that she can ride and win rosettes, though how she got one of them would probably be banned today, in this modern health and safety mad world. Her cousins attitudes changes too at the end, though we will never know how much, as unfortunately her cousins do not feature in subsequent books in this series. All in all, a good book.

Saturday, 1 September 2007

Review: DIANA - Janet Must Ride

Thankfully this is the last of the complaints about the people who have installed the central heating. They came on Tuesday, and finished on Wednesday. Everything is now put away, except for the books. A lot of the walls they had touched had rather dirty and my nice wall where the bookshelves were, was instead of being a nice "country cream", was a rather dirty colour. So consequently that wall had to be repainted, along with a few odd patches in other rooms. I am just waiting for the second coat to dry before I put the books back. Although for some reasons, they did steal a lightbulb from the hall (why I ask? A lightbulb isnt expensive. I mean, you can buy a couple from the poundshop and that particular one wasnt an expensive energy efficient one - though I do have those in my flat - it cost me 98p for a pack of two from Tescos). So once again, a random choosing.

Janet Must Ride is one of Diana's earliest ones, published in 1953. The blurb reads (taken from the picture with the photographic cover):-

A girl groom has a wonderful job.........

But Janet sometimes wondered whether she would be anything more than a dreary, horsy person, remaining a groom all her life, and never achieving her ambition to become a champion rider.

Then the accident happens, just before the Big Event. Miriam is injured - and Corrymeela riderless. The cry goes up "Janet must ride!"

"For a moment I sat quite still picturing myself in the dressage arena. Would I ride well enough to satisfy Major Fuller? Worst of all, would I let down the family, or their beautiful mare, Corrymeela...?"

Ironically, Corrymeela (albeit with a slight difference in the number of r's used) is a reused name, the same name is used in her collaboration with her sisters, in her first book, It Began with Picotee. I wonder if the sisters chose a name each, or left the name picking to Diana?

The photographic edition is not illustrated, however the first edition (the one with an illustrated cover) is illustrated by Mary Gernat. 

But putting that aside, again, I feel that this is an ok effort. I have no particular dislike or like for the book, it is a tale of Janet doing hard work. I feel that Janet is being unrealistic, very few grooms these days actually dream of becoming riders in their own right, but many do want to work for the top class of their field, whether it be the showjumping, eventing, dressage, or showing sphere of the equestrienne field. Even if grooms do dream, there is certainly the wrong way to do it. But this book could be a product of it's time, maybe things were different then? I dont know. I'll leave that up to the reader.

But this tale makes an interesting read, and apart from a few odd details, it is still got the same charm as it did when it was first published. It's fairly easy to get into, unlike some of Diana's other pony books (particularly the early years). The plot is good, and the blurb gives it away what happens, but it leaves a surprising twist at the end. An interesting and good read all the same, particularly if you like the kind of books that involve people that work for a living with horses, instead of it being handed to them on a silver platter.

Saturday, 25 August 2007

Review: DIANA - A Pony For Sale

I must admit that there was no logic to choosing this book. This week I have been contending with some stupid, no rather incompetent, people who have been installing a new central heating system. Despite being told that it would take 3 days (Thursday was the day it was due to be finished), I am still sitting here with unfinished work. Thankfully I did not pay for the work (nor the system) otherwise I would be asking for some of my money back. Not to mention the toilet seat being broken in the process and my indoors only cat being let out numerous times. Anyway the consequence of all this work meant that I had to put all the books away (during which a hard back book fell on my head from the top shelf. It hurt - I blame the horses in the book!) and so I grabbed any Diana book so I could write a review.

The blurb reads (taken from the one with the photographic cover):-

"Steady, steady," I whispered, but Martini book into a canter. And then a terrible thing happened; a dog ran out of some bushes, sending Martini into a frenzy of fear. She plunged forward, snatching wildly at the reins and throwing me onto her neck. I grabbed the mane as she broke into a gallop. "Please stop. Please, Martini. Whoa, whoa, steady," I pleaded.

But it was no use. I was being run away with, and there was absolutely nothing I could do....

The photographic edition is not illustrated. However the first edition (illustrated cover) is illustrated by Sheila Rose.

A Pony for Sale is one that I quite enjoy. It is an interesting tale about a pony and the 4 riders she endures (written from the rider's point of view). Interestingly for the PT's her first rider is a male, something that is not common in many pony books. Like most ponies in life, the riders are good and bad, but it shows you the importance of never selling a pony to someone you have doubts about. There isnt any incidences of starvation, but one owner is rather succumbed to rapping her.

All in all it is an very good book, the issues raised in this one are still relevant today as it was in 1951 (when this book was originally published), and it hasnt lost it's charm. Although thankfully rapping is not as commonplace, but it does raise awareness about how the nicest and best schooled of ponies can fall into the wrong hands.

Also, thanks to everyone who has emailed me about comments re:my blog.

Saturday, 18 August 2007

Review: DIANA - The Boy and The Donkey/The Donkey Race

So it comes to my first review. I thought I would choose Diana first as I have all of Diana's whereas I still (discounting the ones I want to replace with certain editions etc) have both Josephine's and Christine's books on my want list.

The Donkey Race (originally published as "The Boy and The Donkey") is the one I have chosen. My own personal copy and the bit on the back (is there a technical term for it?) is taken from the Armada retitled edition and as follows:-

"Duggie's adventures begin on the day when he meets Old Jock, the rag-and-bone man, and Tammy, his small grey donkey. When Jock becomes ill, Du
ggie finds himself looking after Tammy and driving him through the streets of London.

Then Duggie hears about the Donkey Derby, a race that is held every summer, and his one ambition is to enter the Derby with Tammy - and win"

Both editions are illustrated by Shirley Hughes

As obvious from the title, it isnt an pony book and this should be an slightly OT post, as it is about a donkey. But we'll ignore that for now. Personally speaking, this is one of my favourites, though I suspect that it didnt sell well as Diana's pony books. Perhaps why in 1970 when Armada took it on (this is when my copy dates from) they decided to "jazz" it up a little by rearranging the title. The book dates from 1958, and I feel it is a near true portrait of life in those times. There isnt a specific area given in the book, but I feel it must have been a poor one, bordering on the affluent areas (Kensington High Street is named quite early on, and the Rotten Row in Hyde Park gets a mention later on). Duggie's mum doesn't seem to have much money, let alone time for her children, as Duggie is forever being made to get to the shops, and his dad is always on the railways. It is a hard book to get hold into if you are 11 years old, I suppose, and rather boring, if you cant get around to that mind set long before there was danger lurking around the corner, worries about children being left alone (though there are complaints when Duggie and Pete - Pete being his friend - take on the round when Old Jock becomes ill) and people werent bothered about paedophiles and it was safe to leave your door unlocked. The only real danger to Duggie is the Smithfield gang (a sort of young Kray Brothers), who at one point, stone the donkey and later steal money off him (the money belonged to Old Jock).

But the intensity and emotion felt for Tammy the donkey, and the relationship with Old Jock is a steady and good key plot through out the whole of the book. There is a lot of sadness, especially at the end, but unlike her other books there is no "thrill a minute". If you can get past that, it makes an outstanding book. The actual Donkey Derby is a secondary feature to that book, the only thing that comes near to an "adventure", which other pony (and donkey I suppose) books have. I think although this is better appreciated from an adult's point of view than a child's as in some places it is too adult for today's modern pony book tastes, and it is quite dark even for the PT's. But still the quality for me, makes it my favourite book.

Friday, 10 August 2007


The whole point of this blog is to discuss every single pony fictional book that the Pullein-Thompsons wrote. Eventually I hope to have a website.

If you are unsure who the Pullein-Thompsons are: check out the Wikipedia article.

I am a greatest fan of the sisters, in fact I own all of Diana's pony fictional books, and as of now, missing 8 from Josephine and 12 (one of those I am waiting for) of Christine's. My actual want list is slightly bit longer, but that is because I want to replace some of mine with certain editions, so that they fit nicer with the shelf.

Occasionally I will write about other authors that are on my bookshelf, but it will be always about pony books.

Now for about me. I am 26 year old female, living in North East Wales (that is in the UK). I collect pony books, the only non horse/pony related books are about Rhyl, and the Harry Potter series. Oh and I have the Kim and Aggie's Book on Household Management, but that was given to me last Christmas. I started reading all my pony books last December, and so far I havent finished them!! I have a fair way to go, the books take up 4 shelves, and I have only done one!! I havent finished all the PT's (Pullein-Thompson's), but I have 4 to go (excluding any new ones I get). Though I have taken a break to finish the last HP book.

I dont work for a publishing company (or any book related company), so any opinions are purely my own. I welcome comments, as I know that there is a lot of pony book collectors like myself.

I also collect other pony related items, I will leave that for another post.