Friday, March 20, 2009

Sire Unknown

Sire Unknown
Marjorie Reynolds, il. Lorence F. Bjorklund
1968, Macmillan

Ever since he was four, he had ridden this patient pony. Although it made him feel disloyal, he couldn't help thinking You're nearly old enough to die. When you die, I bet Dad will buy me a bigger pony or maybe a horse

Boots, the bay pony who stands patiently when his rider wants to dismount and tack up a sign, does die. He's shot by a careless hunter, and Jim Evans gets his horse. But although he's thrilled to get a real horse, he's embarassed by the pinto's cow-like spots and name The Guernsey, and quickly renames him Apache Warrior. This is a fairly typical bit of dreaming for Jim, who's also convinced himself that the rich people down the road are his real parents because his dad's a fertilizer salesman and doesn't make much money. Jim's dissatisfied with his position in life, and must learn that the rich people aren't very nice while his making-do parents are very worthy.

Marjorie Reynolds is a puzzle. Her books were illustrated by gifted artists, and were simple and effective narratives; this is one of the few that doesn't quite come off. But her main characters are often quite harsh and unappealing. Here, Jim is a snob who yearns to be a rich man's son, and who wants his own pony dead so he can get a new one. When he has a chance to get justice for his pony, he runs away instead. There is a nasty thread of hate toward fat kids in all of her books - here, the fat boy Tubby is well, named Tubby, and is described endlessly.

- Tubby's chubby face
- his small eyes sparkled between their folds of fat
- Tubby took a greedy bite... caramel oozed from the corners of his mouth
- The fat face turned and looked at him
- Jim thought of how fat and squashy Tubby was

The writing can be effective or terrible. At one point, Tubby is described as 'Strutting up with the rolling gait of a barrel," an image impossible to conjure as it's so clearly at odds. A barrel can't strut, it doesn't have legs.

Horses/Other Animals
Boots - light bay pony gelding
The Guernsey/Apache Warrior - 4 y/o brown and white pinto gelding
Barberry - brown AngloArab gelding, 15hh

Tigger - beagle
Tugger - beagle
Lucy - beagle
Penny - beagle
Weaky - beagle
Little Lucy - beagle
Tiny Tigger - beagle
Butch - beagle
Funny Face - beagle

Other Books
The Cabin On Ghostly Pond (1962)
A Horse Called Mystery (1964)
Dark Horse Barnaby ( 1967)
Keep A Silver Dollar (1967)
Ride The Wild Storm (1969)

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