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discovers she is the victim of a scam, and she ends up with no pony. Alyssa Brugman observes Shelby’s world beautifully. (10+)


Fly-by-Night


K M Peyton, Fidra Books, 224pp, 978 0 9551 9109 1, £12.00 pbk


Fidra Books’ list includes some fine classic pony fiction from doyennes of the genre like Ruby Ferguson and Josephine Pullein-Thompson but their stand-out titles are the first two books in K M Peyton’s ‘Mayfield’ series. Fly-by-Night and The Team tell the story of working class Ruth who is obsessed with horses but lives in a council house and with no helpful horsy background at all. Ruth acquires a pony, and it is there that her problems start. Fly is untrained and Ruth clueless so their progress is anything but smooth. (10+)


War Horse


Michael Morpurgo, Egmont, 192pp, 978 1 4052 2666 0, £6.99 pbk


War Horse is the horse book du jour. Albert loves the horse Joey, but war breaks out in 1914, and Joey is sold to the Army. Joey is the narrator, a brave choice for Michael Morpurgo. A horse telling its own story is a difficult narrative voice to get right, as the glut of ‘I remember the day I was born’ books written by teenage girls in the 1940s and 1950s testifies. The ending is sentimental, but the strongest part of the book is the unsentimental picture of the horse’s lot in war. Through using Joey (and his remarkable linguistic abilities) as the narrator, Michael Morpurgo is able to portray the horror of war, and the humanity shown by both sides. (10+)


Firehorse


Diane Lee Wilson, Margaret K. McElderry Books, 320pp, 978 1 4424 0331 4, £5.75 pbk


Set in 1872, the date of the Great Fire of Boston, Diane Lee Wilson’s heroine Rachel moves from rural Illinois to Boston. She cannot take her horse and life in Boston is cloistered, smelly and hopeless until Rachel meets the firehorse of the title, terribly burned, and with a fearsome temper. The horse is gradually nursed back to health. Rachel’s consequent desire to become a


Jane Badger runs Jane Badger Books, the first and largest website specialising in English language horse and pony fiction. www.janebadgerbooks.co.uk


10


vet is vehemently opposed by her father and society, and her struggle to fulfil her dream is even harder than that to cure her horse. (12+)


The Damage Done


Linda Newbery, Kindle, B005LDV8A2, £2.30. (Pbk edition can be found second-hand.)


Horses feature in several of Linda Newbery’s books. Kirsty, heroine of The Damage Done is surrounded by people who want to palm off their responsibilities: she is the handy sponge who picks them up. Kirsty’s brother has left for America, leaving her to run the livery stable he’s started and cope with her agoraphobia. Horses are being attacked locally and Kirsty cannot decide whether Dally, who is living rough nearby, is responsible. The Damage Done is compelling and beautifully written. (14+)


The Bride’s Farewell


Meg Rosoff, Puffin, 208pp, 978 0 1413 2340 4, £6.99 pbk


Shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal 2011, The Bride’s Farewell is set in the 19th century. Its heroine, Pell, finds horses give her freedom of a sort, in a world where what girls may and may not do is strictly laid down. She wakes up on the morning of her wedding, not agog with excitement, but determined to escape. She takes her horse, Jack; her younger brother, Bean, and loses them both. Pell’s struggle is at times desperate. She has much to learn about possession, and about the stories we tell ourselves to make our lives easier. Not for one second did I disbelieve any of it. (14+) n


* John Birks was a contributor to the periodical Junior Bookshelf, and the quotation comes from a piece he did for them in 1946 about horse books.


Books for Keeps No.192 January 2012 13


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