December To Be ReadA confession: I received the excellent Victoria Eveleigh books from Orion Children’s Books, then something went awry and I received a parcel of books for younger children. In the excitement of sorting it all out, I failed to notice that I’d been sent “Team Spirit” by Pippa Funnell to review, and have left it rather late to review it. So, sorry, lovely people at Orion, and hope this review makes up for it.

Pippa Funnell – “Team Spirit”

This is the first in a standalone series (called Tilly’s Pony Magic) about Tilly and her horse, Magic Spirit,  competing in Pony Club Eventing, which is also part of a long series of Pony Tails by popular and successful eventer Pippa Funnell. I think I’ve got that right – the series are intermixed and a bit confusing, but reading the reviews and website, extremely popular with the pony-mad. First of all, I have to say that the author does a good job inserting riding and pony care instruction into the narrative without making it too clunky, which is a difficult thing to do. And while it is something of a celebrity endorsed series, she is following in a tradition which goes back at least as far as Pat Smythe’s 1950s and 60s books about her own stables. While a ghost-writer does apparently help, Pippa has the ideas for the main characters and obviously has input into the educational and informational side of things, and as I said, the story and the instruction are woven well together.

The book is aimed at the 9+ age group, although the large print in the book (this was an uncorrected proof so this aspect may have changed in the printed book) and the associated website do suggest a slightly younger audience. Although the characters are teenagers and have some teenage preoccupations, the themes of friendship and rivalry should still work for a younger reader.

We meet Tilly and her grey pony, Magic Spirit at a point where they know each other well and have a good relationship, but are still learning. They come across that pony book archetype, the posh girl with the perfect pony, when a team is formed to compete in eventing as part of a Pony Club competition. Things get a bit bitchy, but it’s clear that teamwork is the most important thing, and dissent will threaten the team’s progress.

There are no talking horses or fairy dust, with the only Magic being in the pony’s name (there is some horse whispering and Native American stuff, but this is well-known and well-respected in equine circles, so doesn’t come under the pink and sparkly category that many pony books unfortunately fall into these days). While the book might lack the humour of the “Jill” books or the passion of the “Jinny” books, the plot canters along nicely and the values of hard work and team spirit, indeed, are got across without being preachy.

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I’ve been having some good reading time recently – hooray – so watch out for some more reviews coming up over the next few days … And thank you again, Orion Children’s Books, for sending me this book.