I’m doing yet another special reading project this month, picking out books by friends and associates and ones that have been kindly sent to me, before they get swallowed up in the TBR shelves. This one was well due a read, as I bought it back at the end of May (to be fair, July was a Month of Re-Reading and August was All Virago/ All August but why didn’t I read it in June, eh?).
Jane Badger is someone I have been chatting to for ages via social media, and I follow her lovely blog about pony books and publishing, and she’s doing some similar work to me, too, so I was thrilled when she brought out this book about a big favourite of mine, the pony book. And yes, I bought this one for myself. Read on to find out what I thought about it (and there might be some confessions at the end, too …)
Jane Badger – “Heroines on Horseback”
(29 May 2013)
Pony books are my secret (not guilty) pleasure and anyone who knows me or reads this blog knows that I still read them avidly, mainly the ones I grew up with, but also newer ones such as the excellent book s by Jane Smiley. I was very excited when Jane announced that she was writing a book on the history of pony books, their authors and their illustrators. I can’t quite believe that there hasn’t been one before, but there really hasn’t.
This excellent book takes as its basis a chronological approach to the genre, taking us from the early didactic works, often written “by” the pony, through the classic years of the 1950s and right up to the modern day. There are also general chapters on annuals, short stories and the illustrators (with good and bad examples of these) as well as the important non-UK / overseas-set wild horse books. As well as treating a couple to several writers per chapter, it sets the books against their socio-cultural background and what was happening in the horsey world at the time.
The writing style is very engaging – there’s enough detail to please the biggest fan of the major (and less major) writers of the genre, and it’s rigorous enough to stand its ground in an academic environment. The author puts in her own point of view, but also shares those of others, including any surviving authors or their representatives, people from discussion forums and her own blog, and people from the world of the (pony) book who have contributed short essays on their own favourites.
It was genuinely very pleasing – even thrilling – to find my old favourites in here, discussed in detail and set within the context of their authors’ oeuvres. There were a few surprises and a lot to learn, and this will be a valuable resource that will be picked off the shelf every time I read or re-read a pony book from now on. It’s lovely to read something that’s familiar, heart-warming, intellectually stimulating and a pleasure as an object, with high design and production values.
I was pleased to find that it was superbly edited – not a typo could I find, not a misplaced comma. Not that I was looking for them, but, you know. The text is what one would call lavishly illustrated, and there is a good index and bibliography, too.
I would recommend this book to any man or woman who read pony books as a child and / or reads them now, or who is interested in children’s books or the artefacts of 20th century publishing. It’s a book which I am very happy to own, and will consult regularly.
I’ve only acquired three books in September, I think – not TOO bad? I even went into the shop next door to The Works on Saturday and managed not to get caught in the book-buying vortex.
First up, Alex Kuo’s “My Private China”, which came courtesy of the LibraryThing Early Reviewer programme. It’s meant to be an insider’s guide to life in modern China, but as it’s a collection of essays and interviews that have already been published elsewhere, it’s a bit disjointed and I’m not loving it so far (you are supposed to review these within a month of receiving them, hence the promotion up the TBR).
This one has actually been in the house for a while, coming in as part of a consignment from my friend Gill to help up my BookCrossing releasing. I’ve loved Fannie Flagg’s books for a long time now, but had obviously taken my eye off the ball, as this is one, “I Still Dream About You”, I didn’t know was published in 2010. So when I was sorting out some books to release, I had to grab it …
And this one arrived today, courtesy of Gill again, but originating from our friend Sorcha – a new Debbie Macomber in her knitting shop series, “Starting Now”. Both Gill and Sorcha seem to have been a little underwhelmed by this, so it’s going on the TBR where it should go, at the end, but if I’m in need of an easy read, I will pull it off the shelf.
Currently reading: I’ve just finished another couple of my sent to me / by my associates books so watch out for some new reviews soon!