Sunday, March 6, 2011

Pony Books rule!

I was looking for something else (as I usually am) when I ran across Jane Badger's book web site here: It's full of reviews of all the books you read as a kid and you wish your mother hadn't thrown away. I am delighted to find that one of mine features there - Against the Odds - with a well-written review. It even provides a glossary of all the Welsh phrases I sweated over with my Teach Yourself book.

Jane Badger's page observes: "The book itself is an excellent read: Sue Millard has alas written no more pony books ... She writes a very good blog."

My thanks for the blogging praise. My problem, reflected by the phrase "no more pony books," is that although I have in fact got 3 horsey fictions tucked away waiting for homes (agents? publishers?), I can't find anyone with the balls that J A Allen had, when they tried to revive the genre in the 1990s. When they were taken over, the junior "pony book" fiction was one of the first bits of their stable to be discarded.

Is there a prejudice against horsey backgrounds? There are times when I wonder how many gritty, single-parent inner-city stories our kids can actually take. Or swoony pre-chick lit, or kid-wizard-saves-the-world epics. "Pony books" are not necessarily about posh kids, however privileged the backgrounds of some of the mid-20th C novels may have been. It isn't even about haves vs. have-nots, or rural vs. urban. It's about valuing and caring for other living beings, even if they don't happen to be human.

Anything to do with horses and ponies demands a down to earth attitude to shovelling shit, a robust sense of humour and an awareness of the need to make choices. Do I buy a new electronic device, or a load of hay? Do I go to that party, or sit up with the foaling mare? Even, do I sell the pony because I can't afford to keep her properly? Responsibility, hard work, dedication, thinking about another living being rather than about oneself ...

Perhaps we could achieve a little more light and shade in junior fiction by reviving the "pony book" genre.

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