Monday, March 29, 2010

Doodlebug (1977)

Irene Brady, author and illustrator
1977, Houghton Mifflin Company

Jennifer loved horses. All horses, really. But the horse she wanted was a Beautiful Black Stallion with Flowing Mane and Tail (she always thought of it in capital letters). And it just had to be more beautiful than Myra Bank's chestnut mare, Daisy!

Jennifer Dickens, who seems to be around 10, is glumly sitting on the rail at a livestock auction, contemplating the paltry $14.52 she's saved for her dream horse, when she impulsively buys a starving black pony to save him from a kill buyer. She takes him home, nurtures him back to health and tries to ride him. Ouch. Her new pony's showy trot is agony to ride. None of this is helped by her bete noir Myra, a teen neighbor whose position as a horse owner has soured relations by placing Jennifer in the position of begging for rides and Myra in the position of benevolent dictatorship.

Her parents, who breed goats, are gently supportive but suggest that Doodlebug can earn his keep by pulling a cart. Jennifer isn't thrilled at the idea of owning a carthorse, but agrees to try. The now healthy and strangely sleek pony almost trains himself and before long, they are smoothly delivering goat milk to her parents' customers. With a little poisonous input from Myra, of course:

"That little Doodlebug is the sweetest workhorse I ever saw!"

Strangers appear, revelations occur, Myra suffers a put-down that seems entirely overdone, and Jennifer fears she'll lose her little black horse for good.

A very short (35 pages) book with plenty of very nice illustrations and a brisk, pleasing story. A few minor quibbles - it seems odd that the goat breeder parents don't geld the pony (goat people, from what I've gleaned as a lifelong addict of books on how to raise livestock, are not squeamish about this) and Jennifer can hardly be a good rider just from cadging a few rides on someone else's horse - but overall a good story. I do wonder about the conflicted heroine dramas, though, where the little girl protagonist basically doesn't want the horse/pony she ends up with, and it takes the threat of losing the creature for her to realize - oh, I love Mr. Bones! It just seems a little - bratty?

Odds and Ends
The story itself is fairly timeless, but in the illustrations those parents are the very picture of 1970s anti-style.

The name Doodlebug is cute but unusual enough I went googling and came up with:
* A nickname for a German bomb used in WWII (which I remembered from far too many British kid books involving the Blitz)
* A nickname for a 1930's Ford car that was turned into a tractor during WWII steel shortages
* a nickname for small, self-propelled train cars
* a nickname for pill bugs

The common denominator seems to be smallness.

Books by Irene Brady (horse)
America's Horses & Ponies

Books written by others, illustrated by Irene Brady (horse)
Cloud Horse by Jill Pinkwater

Bio at Nature Works Press
Irene Brady's Nature Drawing blog
The American Hackney Horse Society - the pony page

Other editions
Also a paperback from Scholastic, 1977

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Donkeys, books and God

Brighty of the Grand Canyon by Marguerite Henry, illustrations by Wesley Dennis

And when they drew nigh unto Jerusalem, and were come to Bethphage, unto the mount of Olives, then sent Jesus two disciples,

Saying unto them, Go into the village over against you, and straightway ye shall find an ass tied, and a colt with her: loose them, and bring them unto me.

And if any man say ought unto you, ye shall say, The Lord hath need of them; and straightway he will send them.

Bible, New Testament, Matthew 21:1-3

A little equine celebration in honor of the day the donkey enters the story by giving the messiah a lift into Jerusalem. She (by general account, it seems to have been a she-donkey with a baby at her heels) must have maintained an admirable calm considering biblical descriptions of a large, rowdy, palm-chucking crowd, and the lack of a description of Jesus hitting the ground.

I have a soft spot for donkeys, with their furry ears and small size. Also, as far as I know, the only equine ever owned by anyone in my entire family was a donkey on my mother's side in Ireland. And now that I've been wandering around the Internet searching for additional donkey titles, I discover that there's a donkey/book connection - Ethiopia is making donkey carts into mobile libraries.

I also discovered that an English town has banned donkey rides on its beach. This was another (see here) of those things I found so enviable when I was a kid reading English books - their beaches had donkey rides. True, the U.S. does have a Donkey Beach - it's a former nude beach in Hawaii. Not quite the same thing.

And a list of books starring donkeys. I was not expecting such a long list, myself, but apparently the animal lives at the center of a perfect storm of nostalgia, where the American and Mexican Old West, WWII-era rural Italy and the more eccentric sides of the United Kingdom collide.

Brighty of the Grand Canyon by Marguerite Henry, illustrations by Wesley Dennis
The Small War of Sergeant Donkey by Maureen Daly,
The Silver Donkey by Sonya Hartnett
The Little Grey Donkey by Helen Cresswell
The Turf-Cutter's Donkey by Patricia Lynch
The Donkey Rustlers by Gerald Durrell
The Secret of Donkey Island by Lavinia R. Davis
Donkey Detective by Lavinia R. Davis
Donkey On The Doorstep by Lucy Daniels (Animal Ark series)
The Donkey Diaries series by Peter Clover

The Small One by Charles Tazewell
The Donkey Cart by Clyde Robert Bulla
The Story of A Donkey by Madame La Comtesse de Segur, J. H. Willard
Clever Jack
Sandro's Battle by David Scott Daniell

Travels With My Ass by John Pascal
Travels With My Donkey by Tim Moore
Travels In A Donkey Trap by Daisy Baker
Travels With A Donkey in the Cevennes by Robert Louis Stevenson
My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell
Last of the Donkey Pilgrims by Kevin O'Hara

Also, several of the living-in-the-country books by Derek Tangye and Doreen Tovey feature pet donkeys.

Matthew 21:1-11 at Biblegateway
WXICOF list of donkey books
The Small One film at IMDB
BBC - Ethiopian Donkey Library story
Ethiopia Reads
ALA article on the donkey libraries
Telegraph - Donkey rides banned from beach

Books online
Travels With My Donkey by Tim Moore at Google Books
Last of the Donkey Pilgrims at Google Books
Travels With A Robert Louis Stevenson at Google Books
The Story of A Donkey at Google Books
Donkey Diaries: Donkey Drama at Google Books
Clever Jack at Google Books

Monday, March 22, 2010

Trumper (1963)


Hetty Burlingame Beatty, il. Joshua Tolford

1963, Houghton Mifflin Company

Trumper dashed down the road, the farm wagon bouncing and clattering behind him, milk cans flying in all directions. Carl hauled on the reins and yelled at him to stop, but Trumper had no such intention. With a flourishing buckjump he landed the wagon in the ditch, the harness broke, and he galloped off by himself.

Mark Sullivan was thrilled when his dad, farmer Tod Sullivan, bought the dappled grey gelding Thumper off a neighbor. Thumper's flashy and exciting compared to the farm's two draft horses, and Mark just knows that with Thumper, he can win the annual 4-H contest for best all-around light-weight farm horse. The prize, a purebred Angus calf, will start Mark off on his dreamed-of beef herd. The only problem is that Trumper is unused to farm work, having been a saddle horse, and pitches a fit when he's hitched to anything. In short order he's broken the hayrake, the milk wagon and two harnesses, and earned the undying enmity of Mark's older brother Carl, who was the unfortunate driver in all these episodes. And there's no place on a working farm for a useless horse. Trumper will have to go.

Trumper sploshed into the swamp, Mark guiding him skillfully in rounding them up. In a few minutes the cows gave up and headed lazily toward the pasture gate, with Mark and Trumper at their heels. Trumper had never herded cows before, but he decided it was fun to make these big clumsy creatures go where Mark wanted them to. He took to the job with real enthusiasm.

"Good boy!" Mark said again, stroking Trumper's handsome neck. "I bet you can learn to work on a farm if they give you half a chance!"

You know Trumper won't go. Mark manages to train the horse on the sly, leading to one of those classic moments where the father has to reprimand his son for lying even while he has to reward him for the hard work he put into the project he was lying about. And in short order, Trumper, the horse no one could handle, becomes the reliable horse for light work - as long as Mark handles him. And they do compete in the 4-H contest, which comes along halfway through, and is composed of three parts: pulling a fully loaded milk wagon through a course without spilling the milk or knocking over a flag; pulling a hayrake through a field, judged on speed and the straightness of the rows; and herding cattle.

As a child, I had a weakness for farm stories - as in, stories set on working farms where the kids raised piglets and calves and belonged to 4-H and did chores and such. I yearned for this lifestyle, where pets and animals and nature abounded, and kids didn't just own horses, they casually rode off bareback to go swimming down the ol' swimming hole after haying on a sweltering August day. I have since come to recognize the limitations to this picture, thanks to the gory stories supplied by people who actually did grow up on farms, and to the farm memoirs I also became addicted to as an adult (and will undoubtedly find a way to shoehorn in here eventually). But back when I was small and reading any book with a horse on the cover, I was still happily innocent and I loved this book. I loved the details about Mark's piglets, his Angus calves, his chores, and all that work. Funny, how work seems so wonderful to little kids. All those complicated tasks! And how wonderful that adults know how to do them! And how amazing that another kid knows how to do them! I suspect this has a lot to do with the enduring popularity of the Little House books.

There are odd holes in the story; the story is sometimes told from Trumper's point of view, and he has a very human way of thinking. I found this completely believable and compelling as a child but have to question as an adult whether its realistic or even possible that a horse who's never been trained to harness and who's been freaked out by the unexpected introduction of same already would actually calm down and cooperate just because a little boy is desperately asking him to.

There was real fear in Mark's voice now, and Trumper heard it. He stopped in his tracks, turned his head, and looked at Mark sitting on the rake behind him. He realized he was scaring Mark badly and he was ashamed. He must stop scaring him somehow!

Also, it seems odd that the farmer, who clearly likes animals and understands them, would not realize that a saddle horse needs to be taught to pull a wagon, and that simply slapping on a harness and attaching it to a wheeled vehicle is not going to end well.

But despite these problems, I still like this book. The weaknesses are not enough to bring down the strong structure. The sympathetic but limited father, the superior older brother, the troublesome horse, the beautiful calves, the merciless weather... Farm stories have an ingrained power to them because the drama is always writ so large; the peril isn't just to your standing in the local show circuit or your ownership of your horse or even your horse's life - it's to your home, your land, your whole family, your entire existence. It can be done poorly, but when it's done even remotely well, it's hard to look away.


Skipper - dog

Trumper - dapple grey gelding

Kit - Clydesdale

Duke - Clydesdale

Royal - black Angus calf

Chief - black Angus calf

Josephine - black Angus calf

About the author


She was a sculptor and illustrator as well as a writer. She appears to have travelled a lot, and married late, in 1959. She and her husband, both artists, must have done pretty well for themselves, as they wintered in Bermuda in a house she designed. Horses, gardening and square dancing were some of her interests.

Equine bibliography




Equine bibliography - easy/beginner books

Moorland Pony

Rebel, the Reluctant Racehorse

Bucking Horse

Little Wild Horse

Droopy (donkey)

Other bibliography

Little Owl Indian

Saint Francis and the Wolf


Voyage of the Sea Wind

Bryn (dog)

Topsy (dog) (easy book)

Illustrator - Joshua Tolford


He also illustrated Beatty's book Blitz.


Northwest Digital Archives (NWDA)

Trumper on Google Books

Oklahoms State University Department of Animal Science Breeds of Livestock - Angus


Image of a horse-drawn hay rake

Another image of a horse-drawn hay rake

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Big Book of Horse Stories (1946) aka Great Horse Stories

In a personal best, I manage to respond within 24 hours to a request for a review of one of those wonderful old horse story anthologies from the mid-20th century.

The Big Book of Horse Stories
originally published as Great Horse Stories
ed. Page Cooper, il. C.W. Anderson (cover)
1946, Berkley Books

Florian by Felix Salten, from the 1934 novel
Break-Neck Hill by Esther Forbes, originally published in The Grinnell Review in 1915
The Begats by Phil Stong, from the 1946 book Horses and Americans
The Seeing Eye by Will James, from the 1940 book Horses I Have Known
The Maltese Cat by Rudyard Kipling, from the 1894 collection The Day's Work
Cristiano: A Horse by W.H. Hudson, from the 1919 book The Book of a Naturalist
Highboy Rings Down The Curtain by George Agnew Chamberlain
Strider: The Story of a Horse by Leo Tolstoi, begun 1863, finished 1886

Florian by Felix Salten
"Do you remember, Elizabeth whispered to her husband, what our boy once said about Florian? He sings - only ones does not hear it."

Franz Joseph, Emperor of Austria, attends a performance at the Spanish Riding School, and is entranced by the star, Florian.

Break-Neck Hill by Esther Forbes
"But Mr. Geth he's just been standing in his box or the paddock for four weeks now. We've been waiting for you to say when he was to be shot. He's in a sweet temper and d' y'er know, I think, I do..." "What do you think?" Willet blushed purple. "I think Cuddy's got something in his head, some plan if he gets out. I think he wants to kill some one before he dies. Yes, sir, kill him. And you know, if he gets the start of you there is no stopping the dirty devil."

A young man heads to his father's racing stable one Sunday morning to take an aged and vicious former racehorse for a final ride, one which he plans to culminate in a bullet. Cuddy, who's earned the hatred of grooms and horses alike, seems to have been waiting for this opportunity through the boredom of retirement, leading to the groom's uneasy warning that the canny rogue is plotting something.

The Begats by Phil Stong
Messenger was remarkable for much more than a splendid get of colts. He stood at stud in the United States in 1788, by uncontestable evidence, four years before he is supposed, by some reports, to have landed here. His breeder testified to his lineage at the time and his testimony cannot be questioned or doubted since the breeder had been an angel in Heaven for two or three years at the time he uttered his certificate.

A tongue-in-cheek look at the various influences on the American horse, and on American horses themselves.

The Seeing Eye by Will James
A cowboy recounts the story of his boss, blind rancher Dane Gruger, and his two 'seeing eye horses' Little Eagle and Ferret.

The Maltese Cat by Rudyard Kipling
‘Let’s see,’ said a soft, golden-coloured Arab, who had been playing very badly the day before, to the Maltese Cat, ‘didn’t we meet in Abdul Rahman’s stable in Bombay four seasons ago? I won the Paikpattan Cup next season, you may remember.’ ‘Not me,’ said the Maltese Cat politely. ‘I was at Malta then, pulling a vegetable cart. I don’t race. I play the game.’ ‘O-oh! ‘said the Arab, cocking his tail and swaggering off.

Cristiano: A Horse by W.H. Hudson
A more restless horse I had never seen. His head was always raised as high as he could raise it - like an ostrich, the gauchos would say - his gaze fixed excitedly on some far object; then, presently, he would wheel round and stare in another direction, pointing his ears forward to listen intently to some faint far sound, which had touched his senses.

A naturalist tells the story of a gaucho's favorite horse, whose hyper-alertness initially strikes the naturalist as a sign of playfulness.

Highboy Rings Down The Curtain by George Agnew Chamberlain
When the driving horse Helen of Troy dies in a pasture accident, her owner's interest in driving seems to die with her. His misery stirs his trainer to the unthinkable - he brings out the long-ignored rebel Highboy, a great grey whose reaction to being harnessed with a team was to bite the hell out of his unlucky partners, thus earning himself a cozy early retirement.

Strider: The Story of a Horse by Leo Tolstoi
Of all the horses in the enclosure (there were about a hundred of them), a piebald gelding, standing by himself in a corner under the penthouse and licking an oak post with half-closed eyes, displayed least impatience. It is impossible to say what flavour the piebald gelding found in the post, but his expression was serious and thoughtful while he licked.

An old horse tells his life story to an unruly herd.

Cristiano (and the rest of The Book of a Naturalist) can be read online at Google Books
Strider can be read online here and here
The Maltese Cat can be read online here
Break-Neck Hill can be read at Google Books

The Will James Art Company
NYT review of Home In Indianna (1944)
Internet Broadway Database - George Agnew Chamberlain


Page Cooper, editor
Also wrote several horse books, and served as editor for a dog anthology.
Other Books: Famous Dog Stories; Man O'War; Amigo, Circus Horse; Red Tartar; Pat's Harmony; Thunder; Silver Spurs To Monterey

Felix Salten
Hungarian-born Austrian whose real name was Siegmund Salzmann, and who fled to Switzerland in 1938 as being Jewish in Vienna was becoming unhealthy. Most famous for the 1923 novel Bambi.

Esther Forbes
Most famous for her award-winning 1943 children's novel Johnny Tremain.

Phil Stong
Native Iowan whose most famous work was State Fair, which became a famous Hollywood musical.

Will James
A Canadian-born writer and artist whose tales of the cowboy West became classics. Most famous for Smoky, he also wrote various books about the cowboy life as well as several others focused on particular horses, including Sand, Scorpion, and The Dark Horse.

W.H. Hudson
Born in Argentina to American-born parents, he ended up in England; he was a naturalist and ornithologist whose many books on nature were influential in his day, but he is best remembered for his 1904 novel Green Mansions.

George Agnew Chamberlain
The New Jersey native wrote many thrillers, often set in the rural half of his home state, which were very popular in the early 20th century. Two books were made into films in the 1950s. One of these about a horse, The Phantom Filly, was adapted twice for the big screen - 1944's Home In Indiana and 1957's April Love. He wrote at least one Broadway play, Lost, which was produced in 1927.

Leo Tolstoi
Russian author most famous for War And Peace and Anna Karenina. Strider is also known as as Kholstomer.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Vicki And The Black Horse (1964)

Vicki And The Black Horse

Sam Savitt, author and illustrator

1964, Doubleday and Company

"I've never heard of anything like it. That black horse couldn't have impressed me more if he'd won a blue ribbon at Madison Square Garden. Standing out there like that - waiting for you to cut him free." He shook his head, scratching the back of his neck. "Beats me! The most remarkable thing was the confidence he had in you. Somehow he knew you would help him if he waited. And you didn't let him down!"

Vicki Jordan has just freed her father's black Thoroughbred, Pat, who she adores, from a tangle of barbed wire. The horse emerges unscathed because he doesn't panic, and Vicki's father is bemused by the bond between his daughter and his horse. Smilingly, he promises her that pony she's always dreamed of. And Vicki is silent. What she wants is Pat. The former racehorse had come to Random Farm sick and used up, and the girl had devoted herself to his care. But Dan Jordan can't see past his daughter's youth, and she seems destined to yearn for the big horse. Sucking it up, she decides to focus on the promised pony. When her very first buying expedition turns up a starving, neglected creature far too small for her, Vicki impulsively buys him to save him.

The mane was ragged and dragged along the ground. Vicki bent over and lifted it to reveal the shrunken neck and bony shoulder. She let her hand wander aimlessly over the scrawny hide stretched tight as a drum around the emaciated body. It was sticky, gray with grime, swarming with flies. She crouched down to examine the hairy legs and long, cracked hooves that badly needed trimming. There was an ache in her throat as her eyes took in the flanks that sucked inward and the hipbones that pushed outward, threatening to break through the skin. She stepped back and walked behind the pony, noticed the tent-shaped rump and the concave sides and the tail - long, greasy, knotted with burs.

Even half-dead, Jesse (as he comes to be called) is a firecracker. Vicki's macho older brother assumes, wrongly, that one football hero can easily handle one skin-and-bones Shetland; it won't be the first time someone underestimates the little animal. Exasperated by Jesse's trouble-making, escape artist ways, Vicki considers selling him. What stops her is Pat. The black horse, long the only equine on the farm, has fallen in love with Jesse. Surely, though, Pat will get over it if Vicki sells Jesse to a good home and buys herself a pony she can actually ride?

Although Savitt was primarily an artist, his writing is evocative and concise. The action sequences are clear and intelligent:

That first buck put Vicki astride his neck, the second pointed her wildly thrashing legs to the heavens. She came to earth on her backside as Jesse and the other ponies shot past in a shower of dust and flying hunks of dirt.

The plot moves unhurriedly but without excess, and the language is rich.

He would love a hot mash tonight - bran and oats and molasses and hot water made the most delicious-smelling concoction. She tasted it occasionally as a mother samples a dish before giving it to her baby.

Best of all, the ending is perfectly handled, with dual happy endings for humans and equines.

Drawbacks include a fair amount of sexism- Vicki idolizes her daddy and her older brother, a female neighbor has hysterics after a riding accident, forcing Mr. Jordan to sternly calm her - and a slight lack of character development in humans other than Vicki. There is a certain smugness to the adult male characters - they're pleasant men, but blithely obnoxious, as with Dan Jordan's belief that no one but him can ride Pat.


Giant Pat, aka Pat - black Thoroughbred gelding with a star

Jesse James the Outlaw, aka Jesse - black and white Shetland pony gelding

Rocky - Irish Setter

Teddy - goat

About the Author/Illustrator


Savitt wrote and illustrated dozens of books, and his portraits of horses and dogs are well-known. He lived on a farm in North Salem, New York, was married and had two children. He spent several years as the official artist for the U.S. Equestrian team. Several of his drawings are held at the National Sporting Library.


Sam Savitt website

New York Times obituary

Horse Art - Sam Savitt

National Sporting Library

Fiction written by Savitt

The Dingle Ridge Fox And Other Stories

Wild Horse Running

Midnight, Champion Bucking Horse

Step-A-Bit, The Story Of A Foal

A Horse To Remember

Vicki And The Black Horse

Vicki And The Brown Mare

Nonfiction written by Savitt

Draw Horses With Sam Savitt

The Art Of Painting Horses

Great Horses Of The U.S. Equestrian Team (with Bill Steinkraus)

One Horse One Hundred Miles One Day (about the Tevis Cup)
Rodeo Cowboys, Bulls And Broncos
Sam Savitt's True Horse Stories

Other editions:

Scholastic Apple paperback, 1989

Sunday, March 14, 2010

News - old books reprinted

Barbara Van Tuyl's 1970's era series of books about Julie Jefferson and the Thoroughbred racehorse Bonnie is being reissued by small publisher Poppet Press. Poppet is an offshoot of equestrian advertising agency Somerset SportArt. Part of the books' profits will go toward charities that rehab and rehome former racing Thoroughbreds. The first two books, The Sweet Running Filly and A Horse Called Bonnie, were released in January. The rest are expected to follow this year.

I'll miss the pretty cover of the originals - the new ones are somewhat spare - but I'm glad to see an out-of-print horse book get back into stores.

And the small publisher Willow Bend will be reissuing Jeanne Mellin's 1955 book Pidgy's Surprise in September. The text will apparently undergo a slight updating, but remain largely the same. The story centers on a girl's desire to move up from her Shetland, Pidgy, to a horse.

Poppet Press
Whitebrook Farm review of The Sweet Running Filly
Willow Bend - Pidgy's Surprise

The Bonnie series
The Sweet Running Filly
A Horse Called Bonnie
Sunbonnet: Filly of the Year
Bonnie and the Haunted Farm
The Betrayal of Bonnie

In somewhat related news:
As television pilot season churns onward, an HBO pilot with a racing theme inches toward reality. Currently titled Luck, this drama centers around an ex-con (Dustin Hoffman), his longtime cohort/enforcer (Dennis Farina), and a crooked trainer (John Ortiz). Michael Mann's directing the pilot, which was written by David Milch.

Disney has set October 8, 2010 as the release for their racehorse bio Secretariat. Diane Lane and John Malkovich star.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Horseback Summer (1990)

Horseback Summer

Virginia Vail, il. Daniel Bode

1990, Troll Associates

They'd been planning their summer at Webster's Country Horse Camp for almost an entire year. It hardly seemed possible that in just two days, their dream would come true. And one of the best parts about going to Webster's was that they were going together.

Except they're not. 13-year-old Emily Jordan has to go alone when her pal Judy breaks a leg the day before they leave. Emily panics, having been the follower of their tight little friendship, but bites the bullet and goes it alone. She's not alone long, quickly becoming enmeshed in a frenemies relationship with snooty fellow camper Caroline Lescaux. Their main bone of contention is the palomino Joker, who both girls passionately covet.

Cute, bright, lightly written series book without much depth or ambition. The mildly dated details are fun.

Libby dropped to her knees and opened her trunk, pulling out several rolled up posters. She unfurled one, revealing a life-sized picture of Michael J. Fox.

If you figure that the book was probably written in 1989, the same year his popular NBC sitcom Family Ties ended and the second sequel to his equally popular teen flick Back To The Future was released, that almost makes sense. Probably not to anyone who doesn't remember the USSR, but to we increasingly decrepit folk, yes.

Back to horses. Most of the book is a standard kids-dealing-with-other-kids-at-camp plot. There is very limited horse focus, and most of that is fairly simplistic and uninspiring.

Emily tried to remember everything she'd learned at The Barn. She glanced down at her hands, hoping she was holding the reins properly. She could feel the slight pressure of Joker's mouth. He wasn't pulling or struggling to take a faster pace. With her hands separated evenly across his withers, she concentrated on keeping her legs close without undue pressure, heels down and slightly out.

It's the first installment in the six-book Horse Crazy series, which takes place entirely at the Webster camp. The writing is unambitious.

Oh, that palomino! The late-afternoon sun gleamed on his golden coat and made his silver-white mane and tail shine like clouds in a summer sky. The palomino was the most beautiful horse Emily had ever seen.

Any writing is work, and series books for children have their place in the world. I just think you shouldn't be able to sense that they received little time or effort from their creator, which is the definite impression this book leaves.

About the author

Virginia Vail is a pseudonym. Vail wrote many books for tweens (although, back before that particular term was coined) including the Animal Inn series.


The Whitebrook Farm blog has a review of Vail's 1992 book The Palomino here

Other Books - horse related

Horse Crazy series

Happy Trails

Good Sports

Surprise, Surprise!

Horse Play
Riding Home

Animal Inn series

Gift Horse

Pony Club series


If Wishes Were Horses

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Update to February 10 post (upcoming books)

An update to the Feb 10 post about new and upcoming horsey books for 2010 - I've received a very kind email from the authors of the new book Wild Horse Annie and the Last of the Mustangs which says that the publication date is actually March 16, but "you can order advance copies at the Interational Society for the Protection of Mustangs and Burros -- Wild Horse Annie's original organization -- and proceeds benefit its work." Also, "We have started a blog to provide information about Wild Horse Annie that we couldn't fit into the book. Here's the link."

So, thanks to Alison Griffiths and David Cruise for the news, and for the very lovely book trailer above.

Oscar Night

In honor of it being Oscar night and the month of March (aka, the official 30-day celebration of St. Patrick's Day), here's a review of a movie about an Irish breed of horse.

The Little Horse That Could - The Connemara Stallion: Erin Go Bragh

1996, Dreams Come True Productions

Dir: Stirlin Harris

This video for children features a voiceover narration from the horse himself as he recounts his life story and pursues an eventing career with rider Carol Kozlowski. Go Bragh and Carol are shown training and competing, with simple explanations of both everyday events like a farrier's visit and more specialized events like a trip to Anne Kursinski's Market Street Farm for lessons.

Beautiful, fun and very kid-friendly, though the Lucky Charms accent on the voiceover and the relentless fiddle music in the background will make you want to mute it and just watch. Ground-level shots frequently add humor as the farm's ubiquitus and iniquitous Jack Russell Terriers begin threatening the cameraman; the little terrors also function as neckwarmers for Carol on the long drives south to events.


Available in VHS or DVD, this film was for a time also packaged with a Breyer model of Go Bragh.


Erin Go Bragh was retired from competition in 1999; he is now a sire. Carol Kozlowski continues to ride. In 2009, one of the horses she has been competing is a Go Bragh offspring, Lookover Erin.


Hideaway's Erin Go Bragh (aka Go Bragh) - 15.1 bay Connemara stallion

Hideaway's Erin Smithereen - Go Bragh's sire, grey


Hideaway Farm Connemaras

Dreams Come True Productions

Breyer model

American Connemara Pony Society
USEF article about Kozlowski