Lundy Annie, with Jenny's Cove in the background

Photo from Victoria Eveleigh’s website

These three books were kindly sent to me by the publishers, Orion, as requested by the author, Victoria Eveleigh, after I recently read and reviewed her standalone title, A Stallion Called Midnight. Here we have that marvellous pony book phenomenon, a trilogy!

Victoria Eveleigh – “Katy’s Wild Foal”

Katy’s living on Exmoor on her Mum and Dad’s farm, but her Granfer still runs the herd of Exmoor ponies, as her Dad was never that interested in the horse side of things. There’s a lot to get used to as Katy grows up, not least of which is coping with school: she’s not that popular, and when a new girl, Alice, starts, and accidentally befriends here, there’s some serious working out to do before they can be true friends. So when Katy spots a tiny new foal on the moor, on her birthday, she knows that all she wants to do is be close to the filly. Classic pony book themes like children bidding at auctions, hidden ponies and that useful stable owner down the road are updated into a world where it’s no good having a mobile phone if you can’t get a signal (but you still want on), you have crushes, your sister lives with someone without being married, and Facebook makes quite a few appearances. It could be an uneasy mix, but it works. Will Katy befriend and tame the foal she’s named Trifle? Will she manage to learn to ride? Read this charming book and find out. Lovely illustrations by Victoria’s husband, Chris, too.

Victoria Eveleigh – “Katy’s Champion Pony”

Again, we’re reminded very sensibly about the hard work needed to get a pony to the standard needed for showing and general obedience. Katy tries to introduce her pony, Trifle, to the showing arena, but disasters ensue (disasters that are all too real and in fact are based on the author’s own experiences!); then again, maybe it’s more useful to teach Trifle how to stand still. The female friendship strand is going strong: Alice is going away to school and Katy’s worried that their friendship will grow apart, so then of course it does start to fray until they have it out. Money is tight at home, and in another nod to traditional pony books, which often have an artist or writer Mum or Dad, Katy’s Dad is torn between farming and painting, unable to make a real living out of either. Things begin to look up, but only after one of those PERIL!!! episodes, again looking back to so many horses stuck in quarries / barbed wire / falling when out hunting scenes, but done charmingly and realistically without being too traumatic. Katy doesn’t feel she quite does the right thing, and will it all come out right in the end? Even the “championship”  theme is cleverly twisted, which raises a smile.

Victoria Eveleigh – “Katy’s Pony Surprise”

What happens when you want to set your wild pony free again for a run around Exmoor … but she takes one look at being free and runs back home again? This is just one theme in another charming instalment in the Katy story. Katy’s doing well enough with Trifle to go to a residential Pony Club camp (with all the shades of Jill that conjours up: and even though everyone fancies one of the instructors, there is still the cross instructor who will meet her match and plenty of fun detail about the Camp). She’s also negotiating her long-standing crush on a local lad who moves away, their only contact being on Facebook, and dealing with the worry of outgrowing Trifle. But there’s still showing to be done, a mystery about a groom to solve, a baby to come, and the surprise of the title, as well as some great, believeable scenes as Katy and her older brother are trusted to keep an eye on the farm while their parents are away. I have to say, I guessed the surprise quite early on, but it didn’t spoil this great read for me at all.

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I do love the way that these books constantly take a fond and respectful look back to the pony books that have come before. This makes them readable on different levels: someone young reading them for the first time won’t know about this but will appreciate the modern touches and horsy detail; someone like me, steeped in pony book tradition, will love spotting the themes and nods and the way they are cleverly worked in and slightly subverted. I’m looking forward to (many) more from this lovely author – next up is a new trilogy with that rather rare thing, a boy hero (any nods to Our Ken from Mary O’Hara’s books, I wonder!). My only complaint: couldn’t they be twice as long?