Saturday, 6 December 2008

Review: JOSEPHINE - How Horses Are Trained

How Horses are Trained is this week's book. It was first published in 1961 and is a non fictional work.

The blurb reads:-

Josephine Pullein-Thompson, famous for her books on riding, explains the basic training of all riding horses and then deals with the specialists - from show jumper to pit pony. There is a chapter on how horses were trained in the past and one of advice to would-be-trainers.

Written in comprehensive language it will be of interest to all who wish to know what lies behind the accomplished performances of race horse, circus pony or show jumper.

This book is part of the "How" series and this series includes such titles as "How We Weigh and Measure" and "How A Book Is Made".

Curiously, this book has a list of acknowledgements, of which one is a Mr. Dennis Far, who is her sister Diana's late husband.

The first chapter is entitled "The Trainer", which deals with the history of training horses from early Stone Age to the (at the time) present.

The second chapter is called "The Kindergarten", which deals with the training and handling of youngsters from a foal to early riding years (generally 4-5 years). It also deals with, albeit briefly, abandoned methods, such as the use of dumb jockeys.

The third chapter is called "The General Certificate of Education" which details with basic schooling (regardless of the discipline or job the horse is used). This includes some basic dressage such as a turn on the forehand, the rein back, and the half pass. It also deals with some basic faults.

The fourth chapter is entitled "Jumping Lessons". It deals with jumping, right from the extreme basics of teaching a horse to jump, to basic jumping.

The fifth chapter is called "The Stars". This deals with the various roles of the horse. The first part is called The Showjumper, and this deals with what sort of horse is best for jumping (competitively), and also how at the time, show jumping has changed.
The second part details The Competitive and High School Horse (basically the Dressage Horse). This details the various competitions that are (or were; there are more out now) available and what sort of horse is both conformationally and temperamentally suited to dressage. It also says about various movements requited (which have not been previously been discussed) at each level.
The third part details The Event Horse, and the sort of things you need for such a horse. This is slightly out of date as it says that a horse needs to do the road and tracks and steeplechase sections of a three day event. Very few events (and certainly not the major ones) have this section these days, as in the past few years it has been phased out. It also details with a minimum weight a horse must carry (11 stone 11 pounds for men, and 11 stone for women). which was phased out in the 1990s.

The sixth chapter is entitled "More Stars", which is basically a follow on to the previous chapter.
The first part is called Race Horse, which details with early training methods (1600-1700) and the type of horses that were around then. It then details with more up to date training methods too, from early training to a two year old. I'm not too sure how accurate it is, as like Eventing, the training of racehorses has changed over the years.
The next part deals with Polo Ponies, from a short basic history, to the training and the sort of pony that is useful.
The next part deals with Show Horses-Hacks, from the brief history of them (mainly to do with Rotten Row) to what is needed for a Show Hack as opposed to a "working" Hack.
The next part details with the Show Hunters, and what details it, and what is required of it (basically a well behaved type that the judge finds easy to ride).
The next part details Show Ponies. Basically set out as above, but the pony must be suitable for a child to ride. Instead of the judge riding it, they give shows, so must be well behaved.
The next part deals with Gymkhana Ponies. Basically it details what sort of pony temperamentally and in terms of speed is needed, rather than actual games.
The next part details the Circus Horse. This is out of date as there are few circuses that use animals (and consequently very few Circus Horses) but it is interesting from a historical point of view.

The seventh chapter is entitled "The Workers". The first part is called Riding School Horses. This details (albeit briefly) about what sort of pony that is needs, and basically what a good riding school should do.
The next part deals with Pit Ponies. Basically, like Circus Horses, this is out of date, as there are no Pit Ponies in the UK. Again, this is interesting from an historical point of view.
The next part deals with the Police Horse. I suspect that has hardly changed, as the ideal police horse has to be unphased by smoke, cars backfiring etc. It details with the extra things that are generally not taught to horses, and what sort of horse is suitable.

The eighth (and penultimate) chapter is called "How Horses Were Trained". This details with the history from the early Greeks (aroundd 400-350 years B.C.) to (at the time) present day. It also details (albeit briefly) on how the Romans, Saxonse etc had an influence on the (British) way horses/ponies were handled and ridden. It is interestign to deals. It also details, again, briefly, about the former roles of the hores as (save for show purposes) horse are not used for pulling mail coaches and for ploughing.

The nineth (and final) chapter is called "Advice to Would-Be Trainers". This details with what people should have (in terms of experience) before breaking a horse or pony. It also details do's and dont's.

There are also a couple of photos/drawings included in this book, one of Josephine riding a horse called Rosebay.

This book on the whole is still basically sound, though a little bit dated in places. A lot of it is due to changing attitudes and methods over the years, for example join up. For me, it was disappointing that it did not cover Western Riding. It is perhaps best used as an informal guide, with more up-to-date information out there. Of course this is terribly subjective, even horse care books written in the 1980s are how out of date. This fortunately on the whole has not dated as much when compared to other books that were around in the 1960s. The easy readability of this, though meant to be an instructional book, is not dull or boring, but is largely down to Josephine herself. This is because generally (her fictional) book are full of knowledge and are a wealth of information, but you get so absorbed in her story, that you hardly notice that you are getting a lesson too. Though the language in some places is a little old fashioned the book is still readable. Had it been written by a less able writer, then this book would have been better off on the history shelves.

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Review: JOSEPHINE - Proud Riders

Proud Riders is this week's book. It was first published in 1973, and really is an anthology, the extracts are chosen by Josephine, rather than written by.

The blurb reads:-

A superb book for everyone interested in horses, a collection of stories and verses, fact and fiction, about horses and ponies and their riders at work; in the wild and at play, all over the world. Josephine Pullein-Thompson, famous for her own stories about horse, has brought together writing from all sorts of authors, who include Shakespeare and Tolstoy, Mark Twain and John Betjeman, Siegfried Sassoon and W H Hudson, Gordon Richards and Conan Doyle.

The book is illustrated by two sections of photographs which add another dimension to the whole theme of horses and their riders and their place in life.

The first extract is from More Ponies for Jean by Joanna Cannan, the second is from Roughing It by Mark Twain, the third is from Bengal Lancer by F. Yeats-Brown, the fourth is Memoirs of a fox-hunting man by Siegfried Sassoon, the fifth is a poem by John Betjeman, the sixth is from Sir Nigel by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the seventh is from The Travels of Marco Polo by Marco Polo, the eighth is from Animal Stories by Ruth Manning-Sanders, the ninth is from True Stories About Horses by Lilian Gask, the tenth is a poem called Equestrian Courtship by Thomas Hood, the eleventh is from A Galloway Childhood by Ian Niall, the twelfth is from The Horse by Seigfried Stander, the next one is a song called A Cowboy's Life by Anon., the fourteenth is from Far Away and Long Ago by W.H. Hudson, the fifteenth is a rather long poem from The Collected Verse of A.B.Paterson, the sixteenth is from Sporting Print by G. March-Phillips, the seventeenth is from My Story by Gordon Richards, the eighteenth is a rather long poem called The Worn-Out Pony by Anon., the nineteenth is from The Unvarnished West by J.M. Pollock, the twentieth is from Strider by Leo Tolstoy and the final bit is a poem from Venus and Adonis by Shakespeare.

It also begins with an introduction by Josephine Pullein-Thompson.

The quality varies. Some are quite enjoyable, others are not. I really enjoyed the extract from More Ponies For Jean by Joanna Cannan and also Memoirs of a fox-hunting man by Siegfried Sassoon. Some of the extracts include different styles of riding (such as Western) which some people. Also, An African Foal (from The Horse by Siegfried Stander) deals with another country (and continent) entirely, which again is not for everyone.

Of course this is all subjective, of course people will enjoy bits that others won't. But at least this (apart from the cover) does not date, the trouble is that with some anthologies (particularly by Christine) is that they include references to famous horse riders of the day, or horse care which is now out of date. But anthologies are a subject of love or hate themselves, some people hate them, some people love them. Personally I am in the hate category. But on the other hand, if you hate a book at least you are stuck with only one chapter rather than wasting a whole chapter.

Still, at least the quality of the extracts Josephine has chosen are of high quality and this is one of the better anthologies out there. Some anthologies do contain poor quality extracts, and this one does not. The best thing is if you find a cheap copy is to try it yourself.

Saturday, 13 September 2008

Non pony works and more

I finally found Josephine's They Died In The Spring, so that means that I should be able to do it. I badly behind. My original plan was to do all of Josephine's at the end of the year, but it looks unlikely. This blog is very time consuming - the main problem is that I have to read the books.

A couple of weeks ago I lost my cat, and that messed things up. Mainly to do with concentration.

I have also decided (at some point, I need to do the pony books) to do the non pony books. Josephine I have already covered: she only wrote one, which is A Place With Two Faces. Christine was (not surprisingly) the most prolific: she wrote 30 non pony books. There is a possibility of her writing another: amazon list one, which is not listed on the British Library's catalogue. Certainly none have shown up to date. Diana wrote 9 books (three under her married name of Diana Farr), though I had only 7 on my want list. This is because two of them are political related (one of those is an autobiography) and frankly it bores me to tears. Even worse than The Pennyfields, I think.

I have 17 of Christine's books on my want list (excluding the one that may not exist) and 6 of Diana's. The majority of Christine's seem to be written in the 1960s and the same goes for Diana.

One of (Christine's) I got was this week: No-One At Home. It was written in the 1960s, though I got an 1976 reprint. Nothing wrong with that: except it clearly states that it was made from recycled paper. I thought that recycled paper books began in the 1990s: clearly not. Obviously Hamish Hamilton started to be environmentally aware, which was quite remarkable for the time, as all their (the PT's I mean) other pony works did not come from recycled paper which date from around the same time. I have seen on pony books "war economy standard" on books dating from WW2, but I thought that meant it was from lesser quality paper, and lower print runs.

Anyway, that turned out rather interesting. Generally, CPT's non pony work tend to be for an younger age, I have 3 in front of me. No-One At Home states it is for "about six to about nine years of age" and Giles And The Greyhound states it is "ideal for the 7- to 10-year-old". The Boys From the Cafe has no age range stated, though I suspect (though not having read it) it is for the 7 to 10 years range. I have no idea about Diana's works, though I suspect Choosing (published under her married name) is for adults.

Saturday, 9 August 2008

Review: JOSEPHINE - A Place With Two Faces

OK I am cheating here. First of all I have misplaced They Died In the Spring, hence the lack of updates because I cant continue with the (Chief) Inspector Flecker series until I find it. Because of the rarity of the series I cant borrow/buy another one easily. If I don't find it soon, I will find another Josephine book.

Secondly, recently I have decided to purchase all of Christine's and Diana's non (fictional) pony works, and therefore I will be reviewing them at a later date. I want to get review the pony books first. Also, because of the rarity (in comparison) of their non-pony works, I need the complete series.

Because I touched on A Place With Two Faces before in a previous post, I have now decided to give it a proper review. All 3 sisters decided to publish under a different name (Diana published 3 books under her married name - Farr and Christine published 2 books under the (possible) pseudonym of Christine Keir). This book fades into some relative obscurity, mainly because it is hard to find, and not many people are aware that she wrote it. I was pointed out last year to a book called Who's Who, which lists many notable people, and in it, it has a complete bibliography of her works. (Diana is not listed, however her brother Denis Cannan is.) If you are interested in reading it, it is to be found in your reference section of your local library, however many libraries subscribe to Know UK. In Know UK, you can search Who's Who. Go to your local council's website and they will tell if you if you can access KnowUK. You do need to be a member of your local library, as Know UK does require you to enter your library card number.

A Place With Two Faces is quite a departure from her usual style. I am not sure why she wrote it under a pseudonym, maybe because she was so well known for her pony books during the 1970s (this one was published in 1972) that she did not decide to confuse parents as this is definitely not for children. Or alternatively, if she did not want to write any more of this style or it flopped (perhaps it wasnt a best seller due to it's rarity) then nobody would know who Josephine Mann was (or rather is). Or maybe, because it is such a wild departure that she wanted to distant herself, and her way was writing it under a pseudonym. You decide.

I say it is not for children, as it is described as gothic terror novel; certainly it is not "cosy" reading and it is definitely not instructive. It has drug and sex references for a start: though it does not go into great detail, they arent subjects for horsey loving kids. The religion Wicca is quite a predominent feature in the book, although it is not shoved down your neck. The blurb (of the first image) reads:-

'Darksome Night and shining Moon,
East then, South then West then North,
Hearken to the witches' run,
Hear I come to call thee forth -
Earth and Water Air and Fire...'

Fleeing from a broken romance, Jenny Maxwell came to Kilruthan in search of work and an escape from here past.

The large double-house set on the edge of the moors offered her a fresh start, and Mrs. Shaw, an eccentric author, seemed a hospitable employer. But from the moment she entered the house she was struck by the ominous echoes of fear that haunted every room. Strange accidents began to occur and she realised, with horror, that someone or something was out to kill her.

Caught in Kilruthan's web of evil, Jenny found herself witness to a witches' ritual and a black dance of death - a devil's dance which was to end in a sacred offering. And well she knew, with terror in her heart, that she was to be the sacrifice.

and the other blurb (second image) reads:-

Darksome Night and shining Moon,
East then, South then West then North,
Hearken to the witches' run,
Hear I come to call thee forth -
Earth and Water Air and Fire...'

A broken romance had brought Jenny Maxwell to Kilruthan on the edge of the moor. Here she would forget the hurt she suffered.

But from the moment she entered the house she was struck with fear. Strange accidents began to occur and she realized, with mounting horror, the something or someone wanted her dead.

Caught in an ominous web of evil, Jenny found herself witness to a witches ritual and a black dance of death - a devil's dance that could only end with Jenny herself as the sacred offering!

Both editions are not illustrated.

Firstly, I know nothing about the religion Wicca, so I dont know how true or not true it portrays the religion. But looking from the Wikipedia article, it appears some aspects are true.

In addition to the sex and drug references there is a death at the end of the book of one of the characters, which is highly unusual, as Diana was the one that used to do death in her books, Josephine as far as I am aware of (bear in mind I havent read all her books) doesnt do "death". There is also a romance in it too.

I found this book strangely enjoyable. I certainly forgot it was Josephine who wrote it about a quarter of the way through: however you could tell it was written by a decent author. Maybe if you are used to books by other gothic authors such as Anne Rice (this book also pre-dates any of Anne's works) then you may find not quite up to her standard, but if you want a cosy and loving read, then this is not for you. I found it quite chilling in places.

Still it is worth noting that there is more to the P-Ts than pony books. I have yet to experience either Diana's or Christine's non pony books, but they do come from good writing stock: Joanna (their mother) wrote more novels (including detective) than pony books. I have yet to read them either: but from what I know, they dont feature horses/ponies at all.

Saturday, 28 June 2008

Review: JOSEPHINE - Gin and Murder

Gin and Murder is the first one of a series of books. They are less well known than many of her works: though they are horse related, the horses are less of an key element to the books. They are aimed at adults: in fact they are murder mystery books. Josephine is following in the steps of her mother, who was alive when this was published. This book is dedicated to her.

It was first published in 1959, though the image shown is a 1990 reprint. All 3 books are quite hard to find, though not as hard as Mystery On the Moor. The "Linford Mystery Library" editions are easier to find than the first, however they are in large print, making them quite bulky. However they are complete and unabridged, so you do not miss out on any story.

I have added it into 2 series: the series should really be called "(Chief) Inspector Flecker", as he is the character that appears throughout the whole series, and quite a key. However, because of the relative obscurity of the books, it may not be obvious to people, and therefore I am also adding a "Adult Murder Mystery" tag, which makes more sense.

The blurb reads:-

When Guy Vickers died after Commander Chadwick's cocktail party, murder was the last thing suspected by East Wintshire. Murder was something one read about in the Sunday newspapers; it just didn't happen to people like them.

But murder it was. And when Inspector Hollis of the County Police began his rather ham-handed investigations, he found plenty of motives concealed behind those conventional façades.

It took a second murder to stampede the Chief Constable into sending for help from Scotland Yard, and when help came in the person of Chief Inspector James Flecker, he began to wonder whether it had been a wise move...

The horse element is somewhat lesser than her horse books. It is mainly confined to the fact that the book is set against a hunting background. Part of the book dwells on the party of the hunting franiterny, and the politics of the hunt. Apart from a couple of visits to the kennels by James Flecker, and a somewhat minimally detailed hunting day, there isn't much horse related. The majority of the story is taken up by Inspector Hollis' and later Chief Inspector James Flecker's investigations.

Although it is meant for adults, it could be read by older teenagers too. There is a small amount of swearing here and there, so it would definitely not be suitable for children. Also, one of the characters in the book drinks a lot, and therefore it makes it also unsuitable for young teenagers.
If you do not like hunting or want more horses, then perhaps this is not the book for you: then you are better off with Josephine's other (fictional) works.

The books is not too graphic: to be honest, Josephine's other adult book: A Place With Two Faces (written under the pseudonym of Josephine Mann) is more so. But then again, that is a different genre: that is a gothic terror novel. If you dont like hearing (in graphic detail) about how the person died, worry not, apart from the cause of death, there is very little detail about the two people die.

I do not know if this is a good or bad murder mystery book: to be honest, I have yet to read any other murder mystery book. Although her mother (Joanna Cannan) was famous for writing detective novels (Rue Morgue Press compare to her to other famous authors at the time, including a friend, Georgette Heyer), it is probably a decent one. Joanna Cannan herself wrote one book which is along the lines of this (having a horsey background I mean) which is Murder Included, which I will review at a later date.

The characters are well thought out, and the situation is believable. It is neither a heavy read or a light one, it falls in the middle. The action flows along nicely, though the plot is not over complicated. For me personally, I was put off in detective/murder novels because I was worried about the plot and the book being very complicated, and therefore hard to follow, worry not. This is not the case.

Still it has a decent enough ending, and everything is nicely sown up, though the ending has a slight twist in it. Enough to keep most people amused, and perhaps not for everyone, but if you can get past the lack of horses. It is enough to keep people who are perhaps interested in murder mysteries but not horses happy. Quite a good book in all, and a decent enough departure from Josephine's usual style.

Saturday, 7 June 2008

Review: JOSEPHINE - Plenty Of Ponies

This week's book is Plenty Of Ponies. It was first published in 1949, making it one of Josephine's earlier books (in fact it was her third book that she published).

The blurb reads (first picture):-

'Quite frankly, I don't think much of you Esmonds' said the colonel. 'You've got some of the nicest ponies in this Pony Club, but you don't seem to take any trouble.'

The Christmas holidays promise wonderful adventures for the five Esmonds - but somehow they always end up in disgrace. They let The Turk gallop through hounds, October has run riot in Mr. Simpson's garden - and now they've brought chaos to the Pony Club rally.

However, there's still the Children's Meet, and the Esmonds are determined to redeem themselves - and give the colonel the shock of his life....

The second scan is of a Collins Pony Library edition, which does not contain a blurb. However both editions contains illustrations. The Collins Pony Library edition are credited to Anne Bullen, which are presumably the same ones as the first edition. The other one (a White Lion edition) does not credit the illustrator, but they are the same ones as in the Collins Pony Library edition (and presumably, by Anne Bullen). The cover has been done by someone else, however.

The book starts out with Professor Esmond pointing out their bad points, of which they decide to "improve their characters". However things do not go
to plan, even when hunting on Boxing Day the Master gets cross and a Colonel Howard tells them off.

This book is somewhat slightly stuffy, these days people do not think of "improving their characters". However there is a great deal of (mis)adventures to be read in this book, and this makes up for it. Granted, there aren't so many horse filled incidents until near the end, but the relationship of the children is enough to keep you occupied. Perhaps this is not the ideal book to start off with if you have not read Josephine's books before, as this is not her best work. However, it must be remembered that it is an early work of hers, and that is the reason why.

In some ways that old fashionedness sticks out, there is talk of brandy when someone is ill/has an accident, which is not used today in quite the same way (and certainly not given to children) and also of liver pills (which are not used these days either). Also there are frequent mentions of servants and gardeners, which (unless you are very rich) people don't have these days. Also when there is talk of hanging, it also dates it, as we don't have hanging anymore.

It is a book I am not particularly fond of, but if you can get past the old fashionedness of it, it is not too bad. Like All Change/The Hidden Horse, the ponies are a secondary element to this book.

Sunday, 1 June 2008

Review: JOSEPHINE - Save The Ponies!

Save The Ponies is this week's book. It was first published in 1984, making this one of Josephine's later books.

The blurb reads:-

It all began when Mandy, Kate, Jeremy and Fergus met Nico and Sophia on the Greek Island where they were spending their holidays. Together they discover that a horse dealer from Athens is illegally buying up the island ponies to use them in a circus. Even Nico's beloved pony, Vrondi, is in danger.

In desperation, the children embark on a dramatic rescue attempt. They set off on a daring bare-back ride through the mountains determined on one thing - at all costs they must save the ponies!

A couple of notes: this is probably one of two pony books set in Greece; the other is Penny and Pegasus by Primrose Cumming and both authors were British. Secondly, there is an exact titled book by Gillian Baxter, however the Gillian Baxter one pre-dates this, as it was first published in 1971. If you do not own this book, please double check that you are getting the right one. Thirdly this reminds me of a book by her sister Christine called Stolen Ponies, which was published in 1957.

This book starts by Kate and Jeremy being bored, having being made to go with two people (Mandy and Fergus) who they aren't really friends with. They all decide to go for a beach walk (they are already at the island) where they meet Sophia and Nico. They tell them about a pony race happening tomorrow.

They all attend the race, which is rather crude by British standards. But the excitement makes up for it. They find some ponies to hire and it is during these rides that they find out that the ponies are being sold to a circus. But the ponies are involved in a sinister plot and that is where a plan of action comes along.

I felt that this was an ok effort. This is one of Josephine's adventure effort, it is not to bad as far as her stories goes. It is a pleasant, light red, however the unusual location gives it an added in-depth which is missing from other book. However if it is was not there it would not be as strong. The greatest strength really in this book is the detail of the difference of cultures and the way in life, as far as ponies are treated and people's attitude. But as this is supposed to be a pony book, it is a great shame.

Saturday, 10 May 2008

Review: JOSEPHINE - All Change/The Hidden Horse

The Hidden Horse is this week's book. It was originally published as All Change, but was later retitled as The Hidden Horse. It was first published in 1961.

The blurb reads (taken from the first image, which is the first edition:-

THERE WAS NOT DOUBT at all, the Conway family decided, that that new owner of the Charnworth estate was going to be a thorough nuisance. Their father had been agent to Lord Charnworth for eight years and he had regarded them as part of the family, letting them ride over the whole place as if it had been their own. But with Mr. Smithson, the new owner, things were not going to be the same. The estate was going to be run on strictly business lines and there was not going to be any question of children getting in the way or breaking down fences or gates.

However the five Conways - plus their new friend Nick - manage to have an extremely adventurous beginning to the Christmas holidays. Their father had told Douglas on his first meeting back from school: 'A lot may depend on your behaviour these holidays'. As things turned out, a lot did depend on it!

and the blurb from The Hidden Horse (second image) reads:-

With their parents' tenanted farm under threat from a heartless new landowner, Douglas and this younger brothers and sisters secretly pool their savings to buy back a favourite Jersey cow from a local auction. But on the same day there just happens to be a horse sale, where, unknown to the others, Penny bids for a thin, fifteen hand thoroughbred mare...

The edition shown is a J A Allen edition, hence why the blurb is so short. As per usual with these editions, the majority of the back is taken up with information on the author (and in this case, her two sisters, brother and mother whose surname is mispelt Cannon).

This won an Ernest Benn award: this appears to be given by Ernest Benn (the original publishers) to the best book they published in a particular year. In this case it won the first prize in their Children's Book Competition.

Just a note: all editions except the first one have been revised. This is due to the fact that Josephine included the words "Jew boy", and "bloody" and depending on the publisher it varies what has been taken out. The J A Allen edition (second image) does include the words "bloody" but not Jew boy.

As for illustrations, the first edition contains illustrated by Sheila Rose. The J A Allen (second image) does not contain small illustrations, but they are not credited. These are completely different ones to the first edition.

The book begins with the sad, harsh reality of a death of the land's former owner, and how things are going to change. I can see why Josephine chose to use the (original) title of All Change, but I guess subsequent (re)publishers of this book wasn't pony enough, hence it's retitling.

Because of the sad, harsh reality they have to look at everything financially: the new landowner cares more about money. This leads to unpleasant comments, and the selling of their prizewinning cow (who belongs to the owner of the farm - not the Conways - who are the family in this story). Knowing that she will go for meat because of her age, the children make a plan to attend the auction & buy her back, and that is when they get the horse.

Like last week's offering, The No-Good Pony, this explores family relationships, but unlike The No-Good Pony, the family are not divorced. It does explore change: the lack of willingness of the farmer to change to factory farming, and the local villagers (especially the elderly) to more houses in the village, and the inclusion of central heating.

The only bit that I didn't get was why J A Allen didn't omit about Nick smoking, as smoking is very un-PC these days. As this edition was published in 1989, it seems a rather strange thing to include, especially as it is an children's book. Granted it is an older one (J A Allen suggest age 9-1 3 on the back), but still. It's not really a key element to this story.

I really liked this book. The sudden change of the way of life, not only to the main characters, but other farmers & the village is well thought out. There is an great episode where at the sale, a bull belonging to another farmer breaks out and causes great chaos in the local town!

This is perhaps the least horsey book out of Josephine's I feel, as although ponies are there, it is more of a farming story than a horsey one. Perhaps that is why it was retitled. But don't let that put you off: the standard of writing is extremely excellent (this is one of Josephine's better tales) and it is easy to see why this has won an Award.

A good book which shouldn't be missed.

Monday, 5 May 2008

Once again, I have left the blog without updates.

This is mainly because of time. My computer and I do not live at the same address: I have no landline (and I dont consider it worth it to install a brand new one) and therefore no internet access until weekends. Because of the fact I am involved with other (book and non-book) related forums, and of course, ebay, I dont have time, plus the other things to do.

June and July were always going to be a problem for me: June I am going to be at a wedding, which is nearly 180 miles away, and therefore ties up one weekend. July means that one weekend I am at Wimbledon (not to play though but to spectate - I cant even catch a ball, let alone hit one) and my parents are going to be on holiday. Which means that because I have to rely on them to a certain extent to get me to the internet (the transport to their house is terrible, and I cant drive due to medical reasons), so that leaves 2 weeks without the internet. Or at least sporadic, it means that I have 2 hours max, and therefore I cant guarantee that I can update.

But blogspot/blogger have come up with a radical solution: you can set it to post an update without you being there. Like sniping on ebay, but thoughts/emotions instead of bids. Which makes it ideal and also handy because it saves me the trouble of lugging around a couple of books back and forth......

Because right now, I have The Doping Affair (aka The Pony Dopers) by Christine in my hands. It's currently scheduled to be written about next year, I can now write the review and not worry about it any more. Nor about finding the book: last week I finally realised my copy of Horse In The House by William Corbin was missing, which doesnt matter so much because it's not required for the blog, but it would be annoying if it were a P-T book, though. I finally did find Horse In The House, it was just hiding behind Eleanor Helme's White Winter.

Of course, there is always the downside of time, but at least I can get it all done at weekends when I have more time. That is, provided I have read the book in the first place: some books I have not (take All Change/The Hidden Horse for example) and some I need to re-read (like Christine's A Day To Go Hunting).

I have also added a new tag: Re-named books. Because with some books that have been re-named it is quite easy to miss the fact that both names have been mentioned in the review: and could lead to people thinking I have not reviewed them. Also, if you are looking on ebay/abebooks/other book selling sites and wondering what "xxxx" is about, then you may not realise it has been covered. Of course this only primarily applies to Diana at the moment, Josephine's other re-named fictional book All Change has not been covered, and Christine's only re-named book The Doping Affair is yet to be published.

Of course, a lot of things will be easier once I have done all the P-T's books (or just have Joanna's to do) for people, and I may tweak in the future. I plan to do an index when I am coming near the end, but of course, it wont make sense as I have no exact dates to hand.

So in short, I may not be online, but my blog will be updated thanks to blogspot's handy features.

Review: JOSEPHINE - The No-Good Pony

The No-Good Pony is this week's book. It was first published in 1981.

The blurb reads:-

It was never going to work. The Brodie children disliked the Dalton children at first sight. The Daltons were smooth and elegant, their ponies well schooled and their tack immaculate. The Brodies always looked a mess, their tack was falling apart and they did not even have a pony each.

But now that Mr Dalton had married Mrs Brodie, the children were all going to live together. The holidays would be ruined, and even riding would not be fun any longer with the Daltons about...

Unlike most of Josephine other books, this isnt quite so heavily on the instructional front, I guess this was a sign of changing times, as the main books she wrote during the 1980s where the Moors series, which were more adventure style than instructional. The only exception seems to be her Woodbury Pony Club stories which revert back to that.

It is also a reflection of modern times that this story is a culmination of 2 different families: most pony stories follow a set pattern of mum, dad (even if he is rarely seen or mentioned) and anything from 2-6 children. There is also an au pair in this story: something which has changed, as pony stories until the 1970s, had either helps, servants or maids (depending on the story and whether the edition had been revised or not), but never au pairs (Diana's Only A Pony, also published during the 1980s, had an au pair though, but that has a weird time frame - see the post concerned for further information).

The No-Good pony, referred to in the title is actually referred to a pony called Treacle, a pony which appears to be no good at anything because her jumping is no good, and her dressage isnt much better. But at the end of the story, she isnt no good, she has other talents which make her just as useful (and valuable - not money terms anyway) as the Dalton's immaculate ponies.

It is an easy enough tale, which is quite readable, and unlike the other pony stories things dont go right. Josephine has tackled the subject of what happens when two families come together, a subject also briefly mentioned in the Woodbury Pony Club series, but dealt with in more detail. Whereas with the Woodbury Pony Club series the focus is on the ponies, here it is equally about the children and the ponies.

There is an interesting twist in the end, which makes it more sound Diana's Pony Seeker's series (also published in the 1980s) though.

I like this book, though it's title is pretty uninspiring, and perhaps not the one that grabs you in a list of Josephine's books. Although it may not appeal to every single child out there because of it's people element, it is nevertheless a good book, which is often overlooked.

Sunday, 20 April 2008

Review: JOSEPHINE - The Trick Jumpers

The Trick Jumpers is this week's book. It was first published in 1958.

The edition shown is the Collins Pony Library edition, which does not contain a blurb. However Jane Badger has kindly supplied one, taken from the first edition.  It is not illustrated. 

A pony story which has an amusing and original theme. The Trelawnys, an unconventional and artistic family, come to live at Cudleigh, where local pony matters are dominated by the inartistic and ultra-horsey Hendersons. It is not long before the two families cross swords: Benedict, Jasper and Nicolette Trelawny know their riding is far from perfect, but they do not enjoy being told so by Peter and Erica Henderson! Things come to a head when the Trelawnys plan a trick-jumping act for the Cudleigh Horticultural Show, and the enmity between the two families continues until the very day of the Show itself..... The author's outstanding talent for characterisation makes this a pony story with a difference.

This is the book that is unique. If there was a category for banned pony books, this would fall in it. You either love or hate it. It is highly doubtful that today this book would get published, nor even republished. If you are a stickler for safety then this is not for you.

The book starts with the local people criticising the new people and their house: it seems a bit Enid Blytonish to me and certainly prejudiced. Because of this, and their criticism of lack of riding ability, they are soon forced to take part in a musical ride. This is unsuccessful, because of the (lack of) riding standard and they decide to do a "stunt team". The rest of the book is taken up with practising for the stunt team, and (mis)fortunes.

Like I said before, it is either one you love or hate. The idea of a stunt team is not that bad, just that you cant see it happening today. The bit I hate is that is in the beginning and the characters. Yes, we all have people we hate or dislike, but to me there is some downright nasty bits. This to me spoils it in some parts an otherwise good book, I am torn.

I am torn because there are some good parts to this book, but the downright nasty (and sometimes petty) squabbles spoil it. Diana was the one for writing more people and relationships, I can only assume that Josephine put the tension there to prove that just horses are about, doesnt mean that people get on. Maybe it is due to people that is not Josephine's forte, it's something Diana would be better at.

So really, the best judge is you. It's hard to define this book really. There are good and bad parts to all books, this one is certainly different. Fortunately it is not a hard to find book, and the best thing is really to see it for yourself. Provided you arent a stickler for health and safety that is.

Saturday, 12 April 2008

Review: JOSEPHINE - The Prize Pony

The Prize Pony is this week's book. It was first published in 1982.

The blurb reads:-

Debbie read her letter again, to make sure she'd made no mistake. 'Mum', she said at last. 'Mum, read this. I think it says I've won first prize. I think I've won a pony!

Winning the story competition seemed like a dream come true for Debbie. At last she would have the thing she had always wanted; a pony of her very own.

But once she got her new pony home, Debbie realised that she had more than she had bargained for. An inexperienced rider, she was no match for the excitable and spirited five-year-old. Before long Debbie is convinced that the pony is nothing but a disaster. Instead of all the lovely rides she imagined, she seems to spend all of her either falling off Easter, or chasing him up and down muddy lanes. Debbie is just at her wit's end when her mother has an idea...

In some ways this reminds me of J M Berrisford's Jackie Won a Pony, of which Jackie got her pony through a competition. But unlike Jackie who got on with Misty, from the blurb it is not.

In some ways it is rather unusual, for people not to get with their ponies. For not everything to go smoothly, and things that go like a dream.

I am torn. In some ways it is a good story, but others it is not. For a start it is a slight deviant from the instructive tales that Josephine is known for, but it is not an adventure story (per the Moors series). It appeals to everyone, I mean who wouldnt like to win a pony?

But the slant which is more of a moral tale, which what happens when things go wrong? This book deals with it and the choices you have make.

It is not a bad book in general. It's certainly not the strongest, but it does appeal to a lot of people. It is certainly an enjoyable read, and is medium I feel. Not the best, but certainly not the worst of Josephine's books.

Sunday, 6 April 2008

Review: JOSEPHINE - Suspicion Stalks The Moor

Suspicion Stalks The Moor is the final book in the Moors series.

Like Mystery On the Moor, it is quite hard to find, though thankfully not as hard as the last book. It was first published in 1986, making it one of the last books that Josephine wrote, and also the last book she wrote in the 1980s.

It is illustrated by Glenn Steward. 

The blurb reads:-

A horse is unloaded from a ship at dead of night. Sukey and her friends find the event suspicious in itself, but they also know that a famous stallion has been kidnapped and they decide to investigate further. Is it the missing stallion that the mysterious Mr Spalding is keeping at his farm? The impatient and impetuous Jess is quite convinced that this is so, but a sudden dramatic turn of events gives the children the chance to discover the truth at last.

Unlike the previous book, the Burnetts are not mentioned, in fact they seemed to be consigned to the dust bin, which leaves a lot of questions unanswered. Such as the fact that what happened to them, and what do the inhabitants do for a doctor?

Like Fear Treks the Moor, it begins with Mick (Mr Jackson), the pony-trekking centre's owner, having an accident. (Seems to be very prone to accidents.) Like Fear Treks the Moor, it also has the main characters helping. This is when they discover the hidden horse, which forms the basis of the story.

Again, like Mystery, if you get around the fact that the Burnetts are no longer around, it isnt that bad. The plot and general story is written better than Mystery, to me it flows better and makes more sense. There is a lot of little subplots and mini adventures in this book; I dont know if that is a good or bad thing. On one hand it is good because it does not make it boring, on the other hand it can get a little confusing. But aside from that, it is a decent enough story and it a good one.

Personally I do not think that this one and the previous book do not flow so well, the Burnetts being missing and the sudden change is a major bug bear for me. Maybe this is why it is so rare?

As a conclusion to a series, it leaves things hanging and it doesnt form a natural conclusion to the series. There is a decent enough end to the book, yes, but series no. I get the feeling that Josephine wanted to carry on, but sales didnt warrant her writing another.

Also, my apologies for the delay - time just slipped away!!

Sunday, 16 March 2008

Review: JOSEPHINE - Mystery On The Moor

Mystery On The Moor is the 6th book in the series, and is the hardest to find in the series, even out of all of Josephine's books. It was first published in 1984. It is illustrated by Chris Rothero.

The blurb reads:-

The fear of rabies haunts the moor when the vets' children, Chris and Sukey, meet their friends for the holidays, for several cases of the killer disease have been reported. The holidays are also overshadowed by disagreeable Mr Bates, who clearly wants no one near his establishment high on the moor. What is it he's hiding? And what is in the big boxes he carries to the deserted quarry?

As you may have guessed, the Burnetts which were a central part of the series (and probably due to it's success) are no longer here. The main focus is instead on Chris and Sukey, two characters we met in the previous book. However, the Hamiltons and the Jacksons are still there, which gives some sort of familiarity. The Burnetts are now confined to a short bit which reads:-

We turned right and passed Rosebank where the Burnetts live.

'Why did they all go away suddenly?' I asked, jogging alongside Huw.

'My mother said Dr Burnett was ill. Run down, she said, through constant overwork. He kept catching his patients' illnesses. He's a very obliging doctor, always rushing out in the middle of the night. Anyway, he's got to have a month's holiday so the whole family have gone to Italy.'

Incidentally, the sudden change of characters is not Josephine's fault, instead the publishers Hodder & Stoughton practically forced her to change them, as they felt the Burnetts were getting too old. This is not the first time that the publishers have interfered with the books: All Change/The Hidden Horse has had words omitted (depending on the publisher it varies) and Josephine was forbidden to publish any more Noel and Henry books after Pony Club Camp.

It is curious that Josephine chose to use rabies as a premise for this book, as in the UK we have had not had rabies since 1922 (however, the last human death was 1902), which was 2 years prior to her being born. I do think that foot and mouth disease may have been a better choice, as in 2007 we had it in the UK. The previous outbreak was in 2001 and prior to that 1967. Although Foot and Mouth disease does not affect horses, however they would have been told to keep off the moor to prevent spread of the disease.

Anyway, for me it is disappointing. The quality of the writing is equally high when compared to rest of the series; however the sudden change of characters kinda of disrupts the flow. I feel that had Josephine slowly worked the Burnett characters out during the book then maybe the book would have been better. I am sure that I am not the only person to feel that way, the extreme elusiveness of this book and the almost equally hard to find next book Suspicion Stalks the Moor proves something.

If you replaced the Chris and Sukey (why the foreign sounding girl's name I wonder? Maybe if the boy had been named something equally exotic then it wouldnt be so bad. They are brother and sister after all. It would have been better sounding if it was named Sarah or something like that. I am not xenophobic, just it kind of disrupts the flow, when all the other characters in the series have English sounding names).

haffyfan has another review of this book on here blog, which is here . (Word of warning: it does give the ending away) A bit I strongly disagree with is this bit:-

"Burnetts absence was due to their mother being ill and needing to recover in a warmer climate"

As per above statement it was their father, and anyway I got the impression it was a holiday to recover. If he had been at home he would have been strongly tempted to go and help people. Due to it being a remote community, then people would also be knocking on their door. Meaning that he had got no rest.

Next week: the final in the series, Suspicion Stalks The Moor.

Saturday, 8 March 2008

Review: JOSEPHINE - Treasure On The Moor

Treasure On The Moor is the 5th book in the Moors series. It is also the first book in the series not to have a dustjacket; instead the publishers decided on pictorial hardcovers. It was first published in 1982.

It is illustrated by Jon Davis. 

The blurb reads:-

What has happened to the Kenny treasure? Is it hidden in the sunken wreck in Redbridge Estuary, or is it hidden somewhere on the Moor? Frances, Louise and the Hamilton boys soon get caught up in the excitement of a full-scale treasure hunt, accompanied by three new companions. What is finally discovered, however, surprises the whole group and brings much-needed help to some hard-pressed friends.

Felix, unlike the previous book, does appear and although not quite the same importance as before, it is nice to have him back, and in some ways he is quite important to the story.

There are some new characters: the children of a new vet, who have trouble with their new pony. It gives an new perspective to the story, and the naughtiness of the ponies certainly provides a rare humour.

Treasure on the Moor is not the best I feel out of the series. Although it is still high in quality, you get the feeling that it is all a bit "samey". Josephine is not as well known for her adventure type stories, and this is part of the reason why. It lacks the sparkle that made the early books so great.

Sunday, 2 March 2008


No entry this week due to the fact it has been mother's day and my brother's birthday. So I have had less time to spend online than usual.

But rest assured that next weekend I will be doing Treasure On The Moor by Josephine.

Sunday, 24 February 2008

Review: JOSEPHINE - Ghost Horse On the Moor

Ghost Horse On the Moor is the 4th book in the "Moors" series. It was first published in 1980. It is illustrated by Eric Rowe.

The blurb (of the hb edition) reads:-

A distraught grey horse gallops across the Moor, fully bridled and with its saddle hanging loose. Who can it belong to? And why is it so terrified? Frances and her friends are determined to catch the runaway horse and solve the mystery, but Frances realises she can no longer rely on her close friend, Felix, to help her. For Felix has found a richer and more glamorous friend!

As stated, Felix is not as predominent as he was in the last couple of books. A new, rich character called Natasha turns up, and Felix spends most of his time with her.

The book is taken up with the search for this "ghost" horse and it turns out that it is real.

But the real fun is when they find out who the horse belongs to, and particularly who the owner is.

Like most of the series it has a twist. I find this the most enjoyable out of all the moor series of books, the fun starts with the pony. The pony adds dimension and reality to the series, and is a good plot for the book. The reason why she is so frightened is both sad and poignant. The reality of the owner, and how he is a threat.

The horse goes missing, and the bond shared between her and some people really grabs you, it is easy to see why it is one of the best in the series.

Jane is missing, but the series is so strong that you forget she existed, as the Burnetts are still about.

Again, the importance of the Burnetts father is emphasised in the story, and also the dangers of the moor if you don't know it.

A good strong book, possibly the strongest one in the series. The end isn't quite so cliché and is not disappointing.

Saturday, 16 February 2008

Review: JOSEPHINE - Ride To The Rescue

Ride To The Rescue is the 3rd title in the Moors series. It is also the only book in the series not to feature "Moor" in the title. It was first published in 1979.

It is illustrated by Elisabeth Grant. 

The blurb reads:-

Old Mrs Hathaway, who lives in a lonely house on the Moor, is frightened. She is convinced that intruders break into her house during the night, yet her nephew scoffs at the idea and says she is senile. Frances and her friends, however, are not so sure, and are determined to solve the mystery. It seems at first as if Frances' new and high-spirited horse, Orlando, will be more of a hindrance than an asset, but Orlando's skittish behaviour in the end proves to a blessing in disguise!

As stated, Frances has a new mount; her previous mount Redwing, has gone to her younger sister Louisa. This is not the only change: Jane, a character in the previous two books, is no longer in it, as she has given up riding.

To me, this book is pleasant enough; but to me it reminds me a lot of a Pony Patrol book, which I cant place.

It also tells of life on the moors, how the Burnett's doctor has been a lifeblood to the community, how the ponies and riders are important to the moor.

But if you can ignore the Pony Patrol similarities, it is a lovely story, with a great mystery thrown in. For me, it is not as exciting or as mind grabbing as Fear Treks the Moor, but it still an excellent continuation of the series. Although Jane is missing, it doesn't impact on the series much, and you feel that you dont miss her that much.

There is a twist in the end, you dont expect it and in some ways, the ending is a bit funny. Not so much as cliché, but it is kinda expected. A good book nevertheless.

Saturday, 9 February 2008


This week I received not so many pony books. But the ones I received were important.

The first one I recieved was the extremely rare, and set completer: Ponies To The Rescue by Gillian Baxter. It is part of the Magic and Moonshine series. There is not even a copy on abebooks at the moment. For some reason I keep on thinking I have read it before, but I never had any Magic and Moonshine books as a kid (I know I read Pantomime Ponies from the school library).

The second was even more important: Ponies In the Park by Christine. I know I havent read it, but since I had the other 2 in the series (Ponies In the Forest and Ponies In the Blizzard) it was important that I got it. So that means (with the exception of their anthologies) I have every single pony fictional work that all 3 sisters wrote. Which is quite an achievement. Ponies In the Park is signed by Christine: so that means I have signed works by all 3 sisters.

Review: JOSEPHINE - Fear Treks The Moor

Fear Treks The Moor is the second book in the Moors series, having been first published in 1978. Like Star Riders, it continues the story of the characters we met in the previous book.

The blurb reads:-


Moorland farmer Mr Jackson has a tractor incident, so his family - Heather, Mick and Tracy - have to keep the pony-trekking business going somehow. Their friends all pitch in and help, and manage to keep the oddly assorted guests reasonably happy and safe - even though some of them can scarcely ride. But then they realise that the uppish and peculiar schoolboy 'N. Hutchinson', is genuinely in hiding from some sinister foreigners who call themselves his uncle. There are some really exciting moment, including a chase through a moorland bog and a nerve-racking night under the stars, and a final climax on the rocks.

A marvellous pony-riding story with a difference!

Well it is certainly different from Josephine's point of view. To me, this really reminds of (plot wise)Josephine's sister Christine's book, Ride by Night. In Ride By Night there is a trekking element and there is escaping from foreigners (these prove to be Rumanians in that case).

The book I feel has a slightly slow start, although the main part seem to be preparing for the new trekkers and meeting them. Nadeem aka N makes an appearance, and there are a couple more ponies at the pony trekking centre. The main characters haven't changed that much, save for a little older.

The story doesnt get going until they meet Nadeem's uncles and then the story really heats up. First of all they try to disguise him, and when it doesnt work more and more desperate measures.

I like this book, I am undecided whether or not it is my favourite out of the "Moors" series (Either this one or Ghost Horse On The Moor). Once it starts going, it really holds you, at times you are holding your breath. In some ways the plot is a bit watery thin, especially at the beginning, but the last half of the book more than makes up for it. If you can ignore the similarities between this one and Ride by Night that is.

In some ways, it is also weaker than the predecessor (Star Riders), but if you like the adventure type stories you wont be disappointed. The ending is pretty dramatic and makes an interesting conclusion.

Saturday, 2 February 2008

Review: JOSEPHINE - Star-Riders Of the Moor/Star Riders

Star-Riders of the Moor is this week's book. It is the start of Josephine's longest running series, which is most commonly referred to as the "Moors" series. This is due to the fact that all the books in the series (with the exception of one) have "Moors" in the title. It was first published in 1976.

It was republished in 1990 by J A Allen, who decided to rename it Star Riders. I have no idea why they chose to do that (they decided to do the same with Diana's Cassidy in Danger/This Pony Is Dangerous), perhaps it was due to the fact that they only decided to republish one out of the series.

The "Moors" series comprises of the following books: Star-Riders of the Moor, Fear Treks the Moor, Ride to the Rescue, Ghost Horse on the Moor, Treasure on the Moor, Mystery on the Moor and finally Suspicion Stalks the Moor.

I will be using the first edition, which is the one pictured above. The J A Allen edition of t
he book was revised a little; the differences are minor, so it doesnt matter so much which one you read. (There is also a paperback edition) The first edition is illustrated by Elisabeth Grant, these are missing from the re-named edition.

The blurb reads:

The Burnetts, the Mitchells and the Jacksons wanted to show the 'new' people all their favourite places for riding on the moor. They were annoyed to find strangers at Menacoell, an old shepherd's cottage, and full of plans for turning them out. The strangers turned out to be film-makers, however, who needed their help with pack ponies for a smuggling film. But was the film-making quite what it was made out to be?

Firstly, this is a complete departure from Josephine's usual style, as there is no instructional element to this story (or even this series). Her sister Christine was more famed for writing such books; nearly all her books follow the "adventure" element. I do like the "Moors" series the best though, with the exception of
Mystery on the Moor and Suspicion Stalks the Moor (reason why covered a couple of weeks later).

The series focuses on the Burnetts mainly. There isnt a location listed: although there are many place names mentioned, but they are entirely fictional. To me the locations sound Cornish, and therefore the book is set in Cornwall. Josephine herself based the location on the time she ran a pony club in Bodmin Moor, so it makes sense it is in Cornwall.

The book begins with the Burnetts talking about the new neighbours and meeting up with them. It also introduces the Jacksons; people who in the end turn out to be a central role: their dad runs a trekking centre (to me it always seems on a shoe string: the fact the ponies are frequently sent out with bath mats under the saddle and rusty bits is a good example) which provides interesting pony characters, both in this book and later on in the series. The Jacksons also sell the ponies, which proves useful for Jane, as initially she is mountless.

As per the blurb, the adventure begins when Jane, the Burnetts, the Hamiltons and the Jacksons begin riding together, and discover Menacoell is being used. As it says in the blurb, the excitement begins when they discover the "film makers". Intially, they think it is great, but at the end, they discover something sinister going on. I wont spoil it for anyone.

It's one of those books you either love or hate: if you are the kind who loves Christine's adventure type books and have been put off by Josephine's "instructive" side of things, then you will love this.

However, if you like Josephine's instructive style, then this may not be for you. Either way it is a well written book and an excellent start to the series: it is easy to see why this was Josephine's most long running series.

It is interesting to see that Josephine is not merely confined to a specific type of horse book: there are more to her then writing instructional stuff.

Saturday, 26 January 2008

Review: JOSEPHINE - Show Jumping Secret

Show Jumping Secret is this week's book. It was first published in 1955.

When I first got this book, I thought "I know the story, the girl in the book, has a crashing fall and is forbidden to jump. She then learns to jump in secret, and in the end of the book, her parents find out and she wins some big competition. They (the parents) allow her to jump again".

But I was wrong. The blurb reads:-

THIS is a book for all those who long to have ponies of their own, as well as for those who have their own ponies and want to know how to make them jump.

Secret is a young, grey pony owned by a boy called Charles. Charles's great ambition is to win show jumping competitions. He schools himself and Secret, jumps at many different show, and gradually learns the finer points of horsemanship so that he is fit to compete with the best riders in the country.

Before the end of the season he comes triumphantly with one of the coveted Foxhunter Trophies.

Those who read his story may will learn enough about show jumping from it to enable them to ride as brilliantly as Charles, and to win rosettes as he did.

Firstly, whoever wrote the blurb did not pay attention to the entire book, as (and this is a bit of a spoiler) the question of whether or Charles did win a Foxhunter trophy is never resolved. The nearest he got was qualifying for Harringay, which presumably was a horse show, held at the former stadium (along the lines of White City stadium, which also held show jumping events). To me, looking at the picture on Wikipedia, the cover shows a image more in line with the White City stadium, which was operating at the same time as Harringay. (Also, they both did greyhound racing)

But anyway, the clue is there: this was not about a girl, but interestingly, the main character is about a boy. What the blurb fails to mention is that Charles is disabled in the leg due to a condition called polio. The idea of a "disabled" person in the horse world is later revisited in the Woodbury Pony Club series; this time David (a character in the Woodbury Pony Club series) is disabled due to a crashing horse fall. The change is to reflect the times, in the UK in 1988, fewer people contracted polio, due to vaccination. I myself, have never met anyone who has suffered from polio, and Europe has been polio free since 2002.

But in Charles' case his leg seems to be affected, something which can be a disadvantage in horse riding. He actually acquires Secret, in the middle of the book, when we first meet him, he is without a pony. Like Sara and Patrick in Prince Among Ponies, initially he has to rely on relatives ponies, and until he meets Claire at the local riding school, that is. Like the Merrimans in Patrick's Pony, they (his cousins) are taught badly, and because they initially teach him, he has an awful seat. Claire teaches him, and he gets better and so does his leg.

What else, is unusual about this book is that it is almost exclusively set in London; very few pony books are.

Besides which, it is a lovely story, though unusual. The sheer courage of David to overcome his disability is an added and (for the time) unusual bonus to the book, this book is one of my favourites. The instructional element which Josephine is famous for, is not forgotten in this book; it remains still there.

What makes it slightly unrealistic is that he experiences very little stigma; any disabled person can tell you that they experience some in their lives. He does experience problems with Secret due to a result of listening to his cousins: unlike Sara and Patrick in Prince Among Ponies who have relatively few.

Still a lovely book, although it may not appeal to everyone as it is male centred or those without any experience of polio.

Saturday, 19 January 2008

Review: JOSEPHINE - Prince Among Ponies

Prince Among Ponies is this week's book. It was first published in 1952.

The blurb reads:-

Adonis seemed to Sara and Patrick the most beautiful pony in the world, and they could scarcely believe it when the Merrimans told them he was vicious and not safe to ride. After watching the Merrimans other ponies, Patrick became convinced that Adonis' bad behaviour was only due to mishandling; and that when he and Sara heard that the pony might be shot they decided that it was up to them to prove their theory. Their main difficulty was that schooling must be carried out in secret, and arranging this was no easy matter. How they contrived to carry out their plan and with what astonishing results makes an exciting and immensely readable story, there is much valuable information to be gained from their experiences.

As per usual Josephine style, this pony book is rather instructive and has an unusual beginning.

Sara and Patrick live in London; their mother does not approve of riding and she tries desperately to cure them of the "horsey bug". She gives them "two dozen" riding lessons at a riding school run by someone called "Captain Stefinski" (referred to by Jane, one of the Merrimans as "Captain Stinky"). When this fails she tries (in no particular order) tennis lessons, squash lessons, dancing lessons and ice skating lessons. When this fails, and Patrick announces that he is going to spend his Christmas money on riding lessons. This does not work, and they are as Sara puts it "taken to nearly every Museum in London, and they all made my legs ache. When we weren't at museums we were at pantomimes, which we used to like when we were little, but which increasing old age made us hate."

They also are made to do cricket and eurhythmics.

This soon changes when their father announces that he has to go to Denmark, instead of their usual holiday destination, they go to their mother's old school friend and their house. As they live near somewhere that has lots of museums, their mother thinks that they will happy, instead upon discovering the whole summer that the Merrimans have lots of ponies, they go riding instead. It soon becomes quite obvious that Jane and Patrick/Sara have been taught differently, Jane sits badly according to them and kicks. When the ponies dont do what they do (having being used to the Merrimans' rough riding), they refuse. Jane calls them feeble, and frustrated they decide to ride with Gregory (another Merriman).

They ask about Adonis, one of the ponies, and is told that he is dangerous. Jane rode him, because the rest just hunt, and that she couldnt get him to jump. He also bucked. They think that it is because of Jane's riding and in secret, start to ride him.

The whole theme of this is that it does make a lot of difference where you are taught, even if you go to a riding school. There are bad BHS/ABRS approved riding schools and bad non approved schools, but there are good ones out there. I once went to a BHS and ABRS riding school once. I wont name it in case I am done for libel, but it was in Norfolk. Half the ponies were tied outside a building, no shelter from the rain and with chains. This was in summer; there was only 10 stables for 30 horses. I found it appalling that they had no shelter at all alongside that building as the majority were used for nearly every ride and that in my view, chains are not suitable things for tying ponies up (no string I may add). At least at all the non approved stables that I have been to had stables/stalls for the horses to rest in, and did not tie horses up with chains. In some ways the "approval" system is flawed, I had a look at their website and they are still BHS/ABRS approved. But anyway, that is all I am going to say on the subject, as this is not about how some standards of riding schools are crap.

Like I previously said, as per Josephine's style, this is wonderfully instructive. Perhaps not so emotionally charged and some books, but very appealing to most people. A good solid story, with lots of adventure to keep people entertained. At the end, it is quite a twist, and their mother relents in the middle, and buys them horse riding gear. Their father is not mentioned, so who knows what happened next??

Saturday, 12 January 2008

Review: JOSEPHINE - Patrick's Pony

Patrick's Pony is one of Josephine's hardest to find books. Although reprinted in paperback, this is very rarely seen, and the hard back edition is pretty rare too.

It was first published in 1956 and the picture to the left is of the hardback edition, which is illustrated by Geoffrey Whittam. He is most famous for (at least pony book wise) for the Jackie series, as he did the majority of that series' illustrations.

The blurb reads:-

Patrick was an orphan, and Taffy, his pony, was his dearest possession.

How to prove to his new parents that Taffy only needed food and kindness to make him a good little pony was a problem Patrick and Carol solved very happily.

An exciting warm-hearted pony story.

As a rule, I dont generally agree with things like "warm-hearted" and when I read the blurb for Diana's The Pennyfields which stated that the book was "a happy story, full of fun" I certainly didnt agree with that, this time it is an warm-hearted story. I dont know if exciting is the right word for it, but warm-hearted it is.

Anyway, Patrick having being brought up by an elderly grandfather who is lying ill in the hospital is carted off to a children's home, with his pony Taffy. Taffy lives next door in some rough paddock, due to poor fencing he has to be tied up and Patrick's enemy Brian threw stones at him. So he looks rough in general.

However, Patrick does the best for him, and one day he hears of a family who want to foster him. He agrees to come with them; they live on a farm, so he thinks Taffy will come along.

This book is more of a role reversal. Rather than usually the existing child (or children) being the problem, and the parents trying to get the child to settle down and making things easier, it is the other way around. Carol (the child) welcomes him with open arms, and the father is the one who does not want Taffy.

He (the father) does not want Taffy around, so Taffy is left in the children's home, and instead tries to get Patrick to bond with another pony called Rufus. At one point he is heard to be saying that the pony would be better off dead. In some way, he is very cruel, as Patrick's grandfather did not teach him to use a telephone (his grandfather couldnt "abide them"), Patrick makes a mess of phoning the vet. Instead of teaching him, he laughs at him.

But Carol and Patrick are determined that wont happen, and things happen. Like most pony books, the end is a bit cliché, you know that the pony isnt going to be dead after all.

But this book make you happy and in some ways, warm inside. Unlike Josephine's books, this deals very little with the schooling side of things, but more like Diana's, it is about human relationships.

It gives you a warm pleasant feeling inside this book. Even if you arent a kiddie who is interested in emotions and relationships, then it gives enough excitement to keep you reading. It is a shame that this is one of Josephine's hard to find books, as it deserves to be on more people's shelves.

Funnily enough it is dedicated to a "Phillip". As Christine had a son called Phillip, I wonder if it was written for him?

Saturday, 5 January 2008

Review: JOSEPHINE - Pony Club Trek

Pony Club Trek is the last book in the Woodbury Pony Club series.

It was first published in 1985, but the picture to the right shows the Dean compilation which was first published in 1994.

The blurb reads:-

The members of the Woodbury Pony club are busy preparing for a three-day trek over the beautiful, rolling Downs. Before they have gone too far disaster strikes, for Oliver falls off at the gallop, and Tiger escapes over the hill, reins and stirrups flying. But this is only the first of a series of incidents that lead to a dramatic struggle to save a pony's life.

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

A couple of things; not the entire pony club are going trekking over the Downs. Some minor characters are mentioned in the beginning, this focuses on the main characters.

Like Pony Club Challenge, there are changes afoot. Tina's and Sebastian's parents have now married, meaning that for once Tina's mother is not a single parent. Tina is now fully mounted; through a series of events that are mentioned in Pony Club Challenge, Sarah did not get on with Bowie and has a new pony called Sparkler.

The story begins with a lot of the members turning up for a rally, and practising for possible inclusion at the Horse of the Year Show held in (at the time) Wembley. As for various reasons (ponies too big is one, as James rides a 15.1hh gelding, his horse's height alone would automatically disqualify him, never mind the fact that smaller ponies are better for mounted games) some members prove unsuitable, David suggests that the others do a trek. So that leaves the main characters.

A lot of it is dealt with the practicalities of the trek; Harry's stepfather gets extremely involved as he sets clues for them to follow (a sort of treasure hunt) throughout the trek. Mrs Rooke is still favouring Sarah; as she is in the mounted games team, she joins them with her new pony Sparkler.

Aside from the treasure hunt side of things, there are plenty of thrills and spills galore. You do have to wonder why (apart from the evening) there was no adults in the actual trek; Diana's Ponies on The Trail deals with a similar theme (the only difference is that people are paying to go trekking) and there was an adult present. Ponies on the Trail was only written 7 years before.

It's nice to see the members outside the actual pony club setting, this feels like it is continuing on the teamwork theme of last week's book. The fact that they are spilt into 2 teams makes it interesting, and although the actual mounted games team is more competitive, it does actual make competitive spirit a sub plot to this book.

Although it stands out as a good book, and a good addition to the series, I dont feel that it makes a satisfactory ending. I feel that there was a lot more could have been done with the continuation of the series. Did Tina's mum and Seb's dad marriage last? Did Tina and Seb get on after a while? Did the Woodbury mounted games team reach Wembley? Did they have anything more to do with Cranford Vale? What happened after the trek? So many, many questions that have yet to be answered. (If anyone else has any theories, please let me know)

Personally, I am very disappointed with the ending. It's too abrupt and leaves a taste in your mouth. Not a nasty one, but you feel something is missing. Like a chocolate cake without any chocolate. That kinda thing.