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.


Jane said...

I haven't read this one, I must admit, but shall look out for it now.

It's an interesting point on whether it's a pony book or not isn't it? I was asked years ago to provide the number of pony books the Pullein-Thompsons wrote, and did include this one as I thought you'd include books about horses as pony books, so why not other equines?

pullein-thompson-archive said...

Yes it is certainly is interesting, whether or not it is a pony book or not.

Did you include "The Pennyfields" in your list? I am having a time getting my head around whether it is a pony book or not, yes they have a donkey, but they do not have a pony. However the whole point of this story is that they do want a pony (and save money via various methods for one), which makes it borderline for me.

Cull said...

Wow! what an interesting blog. I read this book in the school library years ago when I was pretending to be too ill to do PE. "OOh, Miss, I've got the painters in REALLY badly."
The book fascinated me, it was the 'dark side' I think. I was used to books being jolly and upbeat - so unlike me life at the time. Love all the PT books - and those of their mum too.