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.


haffyfan said...

Eventers Trilogy aside these books are my favourite pony story ever! I grew up with them and still prefer them to the West Barsetshire ones as they reflect my own Pony Club days. I too love the biographies and maps as you feel you really know the characters and places they talk of/visit. I also feel the characters were better developed, as Josephine Concentrated on a dozen or so, who apart from Jennifer leaving and Seb arriving, didn't change throughout the series, unlike the Noel and Henry ones who apart from a 'steady Core' saw a host of characters come and go over the books. The addition of Hanif, Tina's single mum and of course David clearly showed an effort to bring these books into the 'present' and they have not really dated as such unlike lots of other pony books of this era/past era's.

I actually find them more instructional then the West Barsetshire ones, although it is done in a far more subtle way and very much like the books by Mark Rashid, Josephine offers the advice but it is up to the reader to pick up on it and decipher it at times.

Mrs Rooke and Sarah are appalling ...but there are lots of them out there...I can name about a dozen of each from my pony club days. Plus there has to be a character you love to hate...Celia and Mrs Grunter and June and Mrs Cresswell immediatly spring to mind.

What I really like about these books is the diversity of ponies and so many pony books they own the most perfect ponies (or turn the 'rough diamond') into one who will jump 4ft with ease whereas Woodbury members had normal ponies....badly schooled (Berry), young and Green (Rosie), older and disaproving (Rajah),Not very good at jumping (Stardust) average (most of them) and of course your star performers (namely Tristram and later Saffron/Jupiter) and the riders too ranged from competent to hopeless(initially) and from humble to conceited know all's. They always came across as a bunch of people you would liked to have known (or was that just me?)

I was rather dissapointed that this series did not go on as there was scope for at least one more book about their Prince Phillip Cup team.

haffyfan said...

BTW I have the paperback originals if you want pics of the individual covers.

I forgot to say, I love the fact that the first two covers were carefully thought of and use ponies and riders that could be from the story (Alice, Saffron, hanif, Nettie and Tristram) it further enhances the characters and made the two ponies even more real for me, as they were given an identity...not sure what happened with Trek though!

pullein-thompson-archive said...

I love them too. Although I never attended pony club, a lot does fit with what I was thought. Especially with a pony called Toby, who like Jupiter who was a hell of a puller (he came from sales, but it was obvious he was used as a hunter throughout the years, so for a while he thought everyone wanted to gallop off all over the place. Eventually he stopped pulling in the arena, but he still pulled like hell in the fields, I still remember how sore my arms felt after riding him in the fields).

I do think that Josephine is more instructional over all; when the sisters ran the riding school I always get the feeling that she was the best teacher.

There is one little tiny little bit that does date; in Pony Club Challenge they are paid in pound notes; pound notes were used up until 1988, when they were discontinued and replaced with the £1 coin. (Pony Club Challenge was published in 1984)

Yes, there is such a believable range of characters, in the "Noel and Henry" series, some of the things that they do are quite unbelievable now, but I suppose it was present in the 1940s/1950s they may have happened.

I agree with what you mean about the series. If people had taken to the series it could have been scope for another few books; I guess at the time because the "Noel and Henry" books had been republished not that long ago, people didnt take them to their hearts.

Alice said...

I LOVE these books!! they are the best! Must have read them over 5 times each but they are just so good! The first time I read the pony club cup (when I didn't have the other two) I was a lot younger and when I had finished I didn't want the story to end so I turned straight back to the beginning and read it again! :) Yeah the sarah and mrs rooke thing really annoys me, I thought that as lesley got more confident and started winning more, that Mrs Rooke would suddenly realise her mistake and apologise but no...Sarah remains the favourite. Is woodbury a real place? I love David he's great! and alice and the wheelers and hanif and all of them! It's great how the ponies who begin as 'the lunatic ponies' become some of the best and they all improve so much and the great Sarah turns out not to be so good on better ponies. I just love these books so much :D

Kate said...

I love this book! I just let a friend borrow it and she read it in one day, she enjoyed it so much.

I teach at my local Pony Club and a few years ago I took a group of senior riders who were all (bar one) competing at Training Horse Trials (jumping 3ft/90cm XC courses). I started them off doing an exercise that I got in this book - trot up the hill, trot along the hill, trot down the hill. Then do it at a canter. Like the riders at the Woodbury, NONE of them could do it! (Actually, that's not true. The girl who was a nervous rider and didn't like jumping so was the only one not competing at horse trials was quite easily able to canter her horse down a hill, as she did a lot of hacking. She is, incidentally, the same person I just lent this book to!)

I love the characters in this book, even Sarah and Mrs Rooke - trust me, there are people like that out there! I like how it tells you about a lot of different ponies with different issues, and ways to deal with each of them. Stargazing, pulling, refusing etc.

Beautifully written, definitely one of my favourite pony books of all time.