Saturday, November 21, 2009

Author/Illustrator - Jeanne Mellin

First, The Lost Pony. When I was a small and horse-crazy child who loved reading, I discovered this thin book in the possession of a friend who was neither horse-crazy nor bookish. She was, however, contrary and refused to part with it. So I had to wait a while before stumbling across it in a thrift shop. It was worth the wait. It had, after all, the best of all possible plots, that of horse-crazy kids who get a pony through a miracle.

The plot was of a stray pony adopted by twin siblings (very much in the classic Savitt/Anderson/etc. kind of East Coast landed gentry with a dad forever clad in a dapper 1950's suit, frowning mildly and smoking a pipe), who have been longing for a horse of their own to ride, but whose parents have always been dubious about the costs involved. The instantly love the pony and soon groom him for a show. At one point, they hide him in a chicken shed.

While the story was horsey heroin to a kid who lived in hopes of having a stray pony appear in the alley beside my house, the illustrations were key. The book was one of those highly illustrated children's books that bridge the gap between picture books and early chapter books.

Jeanne Mellin's earliest book illustrations, including those for Lost Pony, were as a collaboration with her friend Nancy Caffrey.

So this very simple and satisfying book was my introduction to Jeanne Mellin's art, and nearly the last time I saw it until I happened to open a nonfiction book about Morgans many years later. Copies of her books with Nancy Caffrey are relatively rare, but it's not hard to locate copies of her nonfiction works on the Morgan horse in libraries. Much of the following information comes from the New York Morgan Horse Society's website; Mellin has been a devotee of the Morgan breed since becoming convinced that her first horse, a mare named Bonnie, had Morgan ancestry.

As a child, Mellin was a member of the Junior Calvalry of America, a horsemanship club founded by writer and rider Margaret Cabell Self. She then attended the Rhode Island School of Design. While doing portraits of some horses at the Morgan farm Ardencarple Acres, she met future husband Fred Herrick, head trainer for the farm. They married in 1955, and began working at another Morgan farm, Applevale. They moved on to Empyrean Hills, then began an association with Saddleback Farm, a partnership which lasted until 1989. Both husband and wife are featured in numerous articles in Morgan publications, and both have won awards from the American Morgan Horse Association. One daughter, Nancy, owns Rose Hill Farm, and stands a Morgan stallion as well as showing. Jeanne Mellin also did sculptures for several Breyer Horses.

Links and Sources
Mellin's Art website
Aquarian Morgans
Identify Your Breyers
New York State Morgan Horse Society article on Jeanne Mellin (HTML version of a pdf)
New York State Morgan Horse Society profile
New Canaan Mounted Troop

Books - As Writer/Illustrator (fiction)
Pidgy's Surprise

Books as Writer and Illustrator (nonfiction)
Illustrated Horseback Riding For Beginners

Horses Across America

Horses Across The Ages

The Morgan Horse

America's Own Horse Breeds

Ride A Horse

The Morgan Horse Handbook
The Complete Morgan Horse
(a combination of The Morgan Horse and The Morgan Horse Handbook)

Books as Illustrator
Somebody's Pony (aka Lost Pony) by Nancy Caffrey
Penny's Worth by Nancy Caffrey
Mig O' The Moor by Nancy Caffrey
Blackjack, Dreaming Of A Morgan Horse by Ellen Feld
Frosty, The Adventures Of A Morgan Horse by Ellen Feld
Rusty, The High Flying Morgan Horse by Ellen Feld
Robin, The Lovable Morgan Horse by Ellen Feld
Annie, The Mysterious Morgan Horse by Ellen Feld
Rimfire, The Barrel Racing Morgan Horse by Ellen Feld
Shadow, The Curious Morgan Horse by Ellen Feld
Sky Stallion by Alea Bushardt, Melody Clayton

Breyer Horses Models sculpted
Friesan (1992)
Misty's Twilight (1991)
Pluto (1991)
Roemer (1990)
John Henry (1988)
Sherman Morgan (1987)

1 comment:

Feathered Quill Book Reviews said...

Jeanne Mellin's book "Pidgy's Surprise" is coming back! It is due out July 2011. Jeanne is working closely with the publisher to see that her beloved Pidgy is restored to its original brilliantly illustrated beauty. You can learn more, including seeing many pictures from the book, at Willow Bend Publishing: