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.