Saturday, 24 November 2007

Review: DIANA - Ponies In Peril

Ponies in Peril is this week's book. It is also the final installment in the Sandy and Fergus series. It was first published in 1979.

The blurb reads:-

The six ponies stood under the trees, watching us warily.

"Beautiful, aren't they?" said Jake. "Terrible to think that they'll end up on someone's dinner table."

When Sandy and Fergie learn that the ponies are destined for slaughter, they are determined to save them. If only they can raise the money to buy them, they can break them in and sell them to good homes. But how will they find six hundred pounds in two weeks? It seems hopeless - the ponies are surely doomed...

Like the first one in the series, the horses are more of a subplot, this is about raising money and community spirit. However, unlike Ponies in the Valley the horses are more predominent, as obviously, the money is for the ponies. But that is one thing that only takes up a quarter of the book, as in all pony books, it is pretty obvious that in the end they get the ponies.

The trials and tribulations of the ponies, being broken in, takes up a good part of the book, and is an enjoyable read. Unlike most pony books, they dont keep them.

It is also quite unique is that all the sisters chose to use the same name for a pony. One of the ponies here is called Jigsaw. The name Jigsaw also appears in the following books by Josephine: Pony Club Challenge and Pony Club Trek. In Christine, the entire Black Pony Inn series features a Jigsaw, and also in the book Sundance Saves the Day. However, as Sundance Saves the Day is based on Julip horses, and the names were Julip's choosing and not Christine's.

As it is a final part of the series, I feel that it doesnt do it justice at the end. Although there is a satisfactory outcome to the end of the book, unlike the Pony Seekers series, there isnt a natural conclusion. I feel that Diana could have taken the series further, perhaps she got fed up of them or this one didnt sell as well?

Sunday, 18 November 2007

A couple of changes afoot

Regular viewers may notice that I have been tweaking around with the blog. A couple more pony blog related links have appeared and a couple of new sections.

I decided to put the labels side on it, as obviously, due to the fact the sheer number of books they wrote, that it will be very time consuming in 2 years time to go through the number of posts to find a review about The Boy and The Donkey (aka The Donkey Race) for example. This is particularly true for Christine, who as well as being the most prolific of the sisters, has written tons of books, and it is her that I am leaving last (as well as the fact that my want list is longer for Christine that Josephine).

Also, if like me, when you were first starting to collect the P-T books (or any pony books), you think from childhood you have finished the series and read them all, only to find that there are tons more. This is particularly true for me about the Jackie books, my mother very kindly bought me the Knight/Hodder editions of the early 1990s, and for some strange reason they only published 6 books. Not the first 6, but (apart from Jackie Won A Pony) a random 6. I was most annoyed to find out that there are indeed 16!! Fortunately, except for the elusive Jackie's Steeplechase Adventure I have them all, albeit different editions. So I have rectified this problem, as every single book that belongs to a "series", I have labelled with an appropriate tag. Sometimes, I have found, that it is not obvious a book is part of a series: a book title with the words Phantom Horse would be obvious, but until it is pointed out or you read it for yourself, you wouldnt know that Riders On The March and They Rode To Victory were the same series. So quickly someone can click on the series title and find out which book belong to the series.

Speaking of Christine, Jane Badger has finally finished her Christine section on her website, she has very kindly acknowledged me, both in the article and in her blog. She has kindly done a section on the Black Beauty's Family series of books, which is very useful, it does pose a headache trying to work out what story is in what book. If only Knight published them all separately, then it would make life easier. But, now, with the exception of Black Raven and the Witch, Black Piper and Black Pioneer, it's a case of finding the edition you like the best, if you dont have them already in your collection.

I had a very fruitful pony book week. I received in the post the following books:-

Little Black Pony by Christine Pullein-Thompson
The Horse Sale by Christine Pullein-Thompson
The Best Pony for Me! by Christine Pullein-Thompson
Black Beauty's Family 1 by Diana and Christine Pullein-Thompson
Six Ponies (Fidra books edition) by Josephine Pullein-Thompson
Fly By Night (Fidra books edition) by K M Peyton
The Ten Pound Pony by Veronica Westlake

The Horse Sale is the lovely Sheila Rose edition, which you can see on the right. As previously said I prefer illustrated over photographic covers, though as far as I am aware of, there are only 2 editions of this book (for some strange reason I keep on thinking there are 3), both with illustrated covers. But this one stood out for it's sheer simplicity. Some of the pony books out there with illustrated covers have such busy backgrounds that it takes it's beauty away. That is why I was particularly impressed with the cover for Veronica Westlake's The Ten Pound Pony (I dont have a scan of that), as it is done quite simply too. There are times when illustrators go over the top. Sadly, with the exception of Anne Bullen, the P-T books dont have the same illustrators consistently, and some of them range from the superb (Anne Bullen) to the lesser quality (Peter Clover, he did The Best Pony for Me). Sadly, Anne Bullen died in 1963, so it is understandable that she couldnt do them (considering the sisters last published a pony book less than 10 years ago) all.

I have also planned out roughly when I am doing each book, of course, this is subject to change, as (shock horror!) I dont have all the P-T pony books. If, for some reason, I dont have that particular book, then of course, I will have to move onto another P-T book. But never fear, they will get done eventually. Plus, I dont have a crystal ball, if some misfortune occurs and I cant get online, then of course, I cant update the blog. I am undecided (this is when it comes to Christine), to do some of the books together: such as the Candy series (Candy Goes to the Gymkhana and Candy Stops A Train) or the Sophy series (I Want That Pony!, The Best Pony For Me!, The Pony Test and The Pony Picnic) as they are meant for the younger age group than what the majority of Christine's books were for, and they only take about 5 mins to read, as obviously, they have less pages and bigger (typeface wise) words than compared to say, Phantom Horse. There's not much you can say without giving the story away on those. But I will do them, never fear!

I'll probably tweak it again in the future, I am undecided at the moment whether the Blog Archive should come before or after the profile.

If anyone else knows of a pony blog or a suitable pony book related link, please send it to me, and I will consider it.

Saturday, 17 November 2007

Review: DIANA - Ponies On The Trail

Ponies on the Trail is this week's book and is the continuation of the Sandy and Fergie series. It was first published in 1978 and like many books of the time, the first edition was a paperback. However, Severn House decided to republish it in hard back, and the photo (right) is the hardback edition.

The blurb reads:-

"An adventure holiday", said Jake. "That's what I've planned. And you two will help me run it. We'll take a dozen riders for six days, and provide them with a pony, food, equipment - the lot. And we'll sleep in old shepherds' huts up in the hills."

"Brilliant!" cried Fergie. "Mimosa and Silverstar will love it."

But the riders turn out to be a very odd bunch indeed - and Sandy and Fergie find themselves heading for a week full of mystery and excitement...

Unlike that week's (and the previous one in the series) book, this book has more of a horsey plot. As stated, the book is about them going off and doing an (give or take) week long trek. The overview is that they turn out to be beginners (with 2 exceptions), and of course beginners give any pony book author a fair more deal to write about than experienced people. In fact, this quote tells you a lot about the sort of people they were:-

The photograph showed a blonde girl with a slightly tip-tilted nose sitting on a beach in a bikini. Her skin was golden as honey and her eyes grape hyacinth blue. It was the sort of picture you might expect to find on the cover of the magazine.

"Crumbs!" cried Fergie. "She looks like Miss World."

Trust men to think of that. The mix of ages, also make it interesting, and a lot of the book is taken up with the dynamics of the group, which also an unusual angle for a pony book. But dont let that put you off.

It's full of thrills and spills. The descriptive style of Diana never makes it dull, where this could be. There's almost an adventure on every page. It doesn't have a big event, just the backdrop of the trek and lots of small ones. But they fit together beautifully.

Interestingly, very much like the book Cassidy In Danger/This Pony is Dangerous, there is a reference to a relative of theirs; May Wedderburn Cannan. May (Wedderburn) Cannan was their mother's sister, and curiously, Wedderburn is one of Josephine's middle names. May died some 5 years prior to this book being published.

A good continuation of the series, and although it isn't as solid is the Ponies in the Valley it is a worthy sequel. A book that doesn't come up as often as Diana's other books, but not a very expensive one.

Saturday, 10 November 2007

Review: DIANA - Ponies In the Valley

Ponies In the Valley is this week's book. It was first published in 1976, and is also part of a series. It is also the final series I have left to do, the other books I have left, which are 5 excluding this one, the vast majority are not part of a series.

Before you all moan, yes, I have discounted the "Black's". This is because when I got hold of my copy of Black Beauty's Family with the elusive Black Raven in, I also discovered there is another Black Beauty's relative story by Diana, which is entitled Black Piper. So because there were so many editions of Black Beauty's Family/Clan, and they were published under different names, I am making sure that there are no other "Black" stories hidden in the woodwork. But fear not, I am planning to do the "Black" stories at one point, it will all be together, at the same couple of weeks, that I will tackle the following books: It Began with Picotee, Fair Girls and Grey Horses and Pullein-Thompson Treasury Of Horse And Pony Stories. Before you all moan (again!) I know that Fair Girls and Grey Horses is a non fictional book, and this blog is about their (pony) fictional books. But, like their mother's books, I feel this has a valid place. It gives a fascinating insight into their childhood. I could prattle on about their autobiography, but before you know it, I might as well change the title, as I would have done a review. But back to this week's book.

The blurb reads:-

Do you know what's it like to long for a pony...?

Sandy had dreamed for years of her own grey mare. Then her parents decide to pack up their city lift and live on a farm - with stables! And when Fergus finds Mimosa at the horse sale, it seems as if all Sandy's dreams are coming true...

But Mimosa is uncontrollable - and if Sandy and Fergus cannot manage her, they will have to sell her. Why does she behave so badly? The answer comes as a complete shock...

And so does the dreadful discovery, one night, that the gates are open, and the field empty...

The "Sandy and Fergus" series of books is one that I enjoy, even more so than the Pony Seekers series. It tells of Sandy's desire to have one, their upheaval to the Welsh Marches (it doesnt given an exact area, but it does mention that is in the Wales border, and Shropshire isnt close by. As I am not that far from Shropshire myself, the area I live in is generally known as the Welsh Marches, though I suspect that they were based further south than I am), and their life.

It tells of how they adjusted from life in the city to life in the country. Not just them, but life as a whole. In some ways it is more realistic, though it doesnt have any tragedies. Anyone moving from the town to the country (and vice versa) can relate to that. How they struggle to fit in and finally be accepted by almost everyone.

There is a horsey element, like the blurb says. Mimosa (and the borrowed pony: Bourneville) are good solid equine characters, and unlike Diana's other books, there isnt really a horsey accident. In many ways, the getting of Mimosa, and the influence on their life is more of a subplot than anything else.

There are two interesting twists: horse wise and non horse wise, but there is enough to make everyone happy. A good solid book with an excellent start to the series. In fact I would say it is good enough to stand on it's own.

Saturday, 3 November 2007

Review: DIANA - Cassidy In Danger/This Pony Is Dangerous

Cassidy In Danger is this week's book. It was first published in 1979, but in the 1990s, J A Allen republished it as This Pony Is Dangerous.

The blurb reads:-

'Cassidy's vicious - he's a killer', they all said. 'He'll have to be destroyed.'

But left to her own devices for the holidays, Katie determines to save the beautiful bay pony. Can she succeed? And if she does, will she ever be able to make him safe to ride?

If anyone is unfamilar with the J A Allen editions of the P-T books, approximately 3/4ers of the back is taken with information about the author. Hence why it is so short. But it can be useful though, it wasnt until I got hold of a J A Allen edition that I found out that the P-T sisters had a brother, who is of course Denis Cannan. There is no mention of him on this edition though.

Dangerous ponies seem to be a thing that Diana likes: it is not the first time she had written about a supposedly dangerous pony. After all that is what A Pony To School is about.

The book starts with Katie, the main character of the story, being sent to her godmother's house and her joys of getting there. Interestingly, there is an reference to Georgette Heyer, a friend of her mother's.

Katie, after discovering that the local riding school charges £4 an hour for riding lessons (she was only left with £10) feels rather alone and that is when she discovers Cassidy. She also discovers later from her godmother why Cassidy is deemed dangerous, but like most books, it makes it sound like the previous rider's fault. Left to her own devices a lot, she makes friends with Cassidy, and ensures that he will be saved. Consequently, she spends her spare time with Cassidy, and meets a neighbour called Matthew (another reused name, it was in The Hermit's Horse there was a boy called Matthew). They become good friends, and makes a good additional character. She rides Cassidy, and tries to retrain him.

There is a time when Cassidy almost loses his life, but like all good books he gets saved. In some ways it has elements of Christine's Phantom Horse In Danger, but this book was published a year before Phantom Horse in Danger, so I guess it must be a twin thing. They say that twins are psychically linked after all.

Whether Cassidy continues to be dangerous or is really dangerous isnt really answered by the book, unlike A Pony To School the answer is never really given. It's up to the reader whether or not they want to believe it. But the main thing that Cassidy isnt put to his death, and presumably, he lives until an old age. Pony books never really deal with that.

It's a little bit dated that they refer to 1980s bands/artists. As J A Allen decided to revise this book, I feel that they should have re jigged a little bit by saying "the latest bands", or something along those lines. I feel that it isn't as strong as compared to A Pony To School on the dangerous front, but it's more appealing to today's people who are more used to being fed a diet of Heartland or similar junk. In some ways, this is better than A Pony To School. But it's more appealing to most people, and less old fashioned. But it is a good book, and not one that is hard to find.

Many thanks to Jane Badger for the scan of Cassidy In Danger.