Saturday, 10 December 2011

Review: CHRISTINE - Sundance Saves The Day

Sundance Saves the Day is this week's book. It is one of Christine's latter books, as it was first published in 1997. It is not generally well known about, as it was sold only by Julip.

Julip is a model horse company, which has been going since 1945. (That is a year before the Pullein-Thompsons first published It Began with Pictoee). The first Julips were made out of leather, however in the 1950s, they changed their method to making horses out of latex. (Yes, Julips are always referred to as horses). In 1989, Julip started a new series called "Horse of The Year", which was made out of plastic, and these are the sorts of horses featured on the cover. In the 1990s, Julip must have asked Christine to write a book featuring the then current range, hence why Sundance Saves The Day exists. For those of you unfamiliar with the names of the horses: Sundance is the palomino on the cover, Jigsaw is the skewbald (brown and white) and Midnight is the black on the cover. There is a another horse which is not pictured which is featured, called Silver Cloud, which is a a grey horse (pictured below).

Julip have never sold their horses in major stores; though they had a store in London until 1996. They also must have sold horses in Hamleys and Harrods at one point: there are horses which come with special rugs emblazoning the company about. Until a couple of years ago, the only way to get Julip horses (and other stuff they used to sell, such as grooming kits for real horses, jodhpurs and even riding hats) was to order through a catalogue. So really, this accounts for it being quite a rareish book, because unless you happen to have a Julip catalogue, you wouldnt know about this. Here is an example of the advert.

Anyway, back to the book. The blurb reads:-

'Suddenly the others were all around Mandy and Midnight, throwing themselves off their mounts and saying things like "Oh no! How could it happen?" And, "Why didn't you see the hole?" And, "Is he going to be all right?" And, "What about you Mandy?" And Midnight was standing with his head down, a pathetic object who held up his poor, right foreleg as though it were broken.
"I think we need a vet," suggested Jack in a sombre voice.
"We're not having him shot, even if it is broken," cried Nicky, "Because breaks can be mended. We all know that."
Now they were all suddenly deadly calm, while their horses blew through their noses and warm steam rose from their backs.....'

Sundance, Jigsaw, Midnight and Silver Cloud arrive with their riders Sarah, Jack, Mandy and Nicky to take part on a 20 mile sponsored ride. They have all worked hard finding sponsors and they are raising money for needy children in faraway lands. Spirits are high. But after a few miles their adventures begin. Enthusiasm and excitement turn to panic and disappointment and a long gruelling day lies ahead.

The characters in this book are based on the Julip model ponies and their riders.

Firstly, whoever wrote this blurb is obviously not knowledgeable: Julips regardless of their size are never referred to as ponies.

The subject of sponsored pony rides has never been a popular one: I can only think of one other example which is Bobbie's Sponsored Ride by Justine Furminger. This book is aimed at a much younger audience than many of CPT's book, though it is meant for older readers than the Candy or Sophy series. I would suggest an 9-12 year old.

Though it is hardly one of CPT's best, all the blame must not be put on CPT however. The names are a bit clunky in places. However as CPT did not choose the names, but instead she based it on the (then) current Julip range. It is worth pointing out that all the characters (horses and people) with the exception of Mrs Spencer, Mrs Walker and Desmond were available to buy from Julip. 

Like the Candy series, or rather specifically Candy Stops A Train, there are no anti heroes, no real enemies. However unlike the Candy series there is drama, though it is not a great deal of depth. However Sundance Saves The Day is hardly one of CPT's lengthier reads: it only totals 92 pages.

For me it didnt set the world on fire, it is a pleasant enough read, but the lack of depth meant that there was no real warmness to the characters. This story didnt make me warm to them, I didnt really care. Midnight has an accident during the story (the single most important bit of drama to the story, which is given away by the blurb), I didnt show great empathy for the characters. Because it is a younger children's story I just knew that everything would be alright. Because CPT doesnt do death (DPT did) and because of the age range I knew Midnight would survive. Death is always harrowing in pony books, and because of this, it is never tackled in this age range. Quite rightly it should be harrowing, but I feel that (aside from the fact that CPT doesnt do 
death) CPT felt it was too much for the age range the book was aimed at to take it all in. Pony books at this age range are still supposed to encourage you with adventure, not the nitty gritty of life.  But that is all very well the single pivotal episode of this story was tinged with "we know that everything is going to be alright and Midnight will be not shot". 

Everything does flow along nicely though, and with the exception of the naming issue, is hardly jerky. In short, it is a inoffensive story, which is in the middle. Not one of CPT's worst books, but certainly not the best. Hats off it must be said to CPT, who has tackled, in what must be said a valiant effort a subject which is hardly written about much; that is the sponsored ride. It is also must be commended for having the spirit to tackle characters and ponies which she hasnt had to make up herself, in essence they were given on a plate, because she had to deal with characters and concepts which werent her own. I am not entirely sure whether or not that made CPT's life easier or harder. But commendation has to be said for Julip's owner for at the time, for getting a worthwhile and highly talented writer,  rather than a writer who I feel would not be up to the job because they wouldnt have had the sheer scope and history that CPT has (the only other author I feel would be up to the job - with the exception of DPT and JPT - is K M Peyton). For that has to be a high recommendation, rather than the owner going for a more modern and less than capable author. Pony books were going strong, and the amount of pony book author still around at the time was more numerous than today.

It is illustrated by Mark Smallman. The illustrations are possibly the worst out of all the CPT books, they are rough outlines. Consquently there are not much style and substance to them at all. They are simply lines, in some ways glorified stickmen. They are IMO, slapdash and a little amateurish.Not the best illustration to grace a pony book.