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!!