Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Mystery of The Dancing Skeleton
Christine Noble Govan and Emmy West, il. Joseph Papin
1962, Sterling Publishing
Several years ago when the older children in the families had begun to want bicycles, Dr. Randall, Jimmy's father, and one of his close friends, Mr. Cordell, had agreed that ponies were not only more fun but safer.
Where were these men when I was a child? At any rate, this is the fairly thin link between this conventional mystery story and horse stories. A group of friends on Lookout Mountain agree to help run the pony ride concession at the town's annual Halloween fair. Something seems shifty about one of the men who is in charge of the ponies, and before you can say "Lookout club" there's a mystery afoot.
The fair has two purposes - to raise money for the local schools and to keep the kids out of trouble on Halloween. How very dull. The town's never very clearly drawn - it's obviously up a mountain and a fairly rough sort of place, but then the kid's parents are almost all well-off. There's a big livestock auction/yard right near the business district, which implies the town is tiny. And there is the fat, excitable, lazy and derided fat kid.
The writing is pedestrian and the mystery isn't very involving. Characters are vague, as is the sense of place, despite the unique location. The illustrations are probably the most interesting part of the book, dark, vivid and far too complex to fit this story.
Horses and other animals
Silky - pony
Horatious - old horse
Snowflake's King - white pony
Windsong - black pony
Trouble - Irish Setter
Bunny - Beagle
About the authors
Christine Noble Govan (1898-1985) and Emmy West were a mother-daughter writing team. Govan's husband and children were all writers; daughter Mary Govan Steele wrote under the name Wilson Gage, and her book Journey Outside was a Newberry Honor Book. Govan also wrote mysteries as Mary Allerton and J. N. Darby.
About the illustrator
Joseph Papin also illustrated Dorothy Potter Benedict's Bandoleer and Fabulous.
Other books in the Lookout Club series
Mystery At Shingle Rock
Mystery At The Mountain Face
Mystery At The Shuttered Hotel
Mystery At Moccasin Bend
Mystery At The Indian Hide-Out
Mystery At The Deserted Mill
Mystery Of The Vanishing Stamp
Mystery At The Haunted House
Mystery At Plum Nelly
Mystery At Rock City
Mystery At The Snowed-In Cabin
Other books for teens and children
Those Plummer Children
Five At Ashefield
Judy And Chris
Narcissus An' de Chillun
String And The No-Tail Cat
Sweet 'Possum Valley
Mr. Hermit Miser And The Neighborly Pumpkin
The Pink Maple House
The Surprising Summer
The Super-Duper Car
Tilly's Strange Secret
Rachel Jackson, Tennessee Girl
The Delectable Mountain
Number 5 Hackberry Street
The Curious Clubhouse
Return To Hackberry Street
Phinney's Fine Summer
Mr. Alexander And The Witch
The Trash Pile Treasure
"Miss Winters And The Wind" in anthologies Stories Not For The Nervous and Timeless Stories For Today And Tomorrow.
de Grummond Collection on Govan and West
University of Tennessee - regional author info
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Saturday, June 26, 2010
I tend to focus on the good, when it comes to illustrations in books. The dreamy, the vivid, the beautiful, all catch the eye. The covers here aren't all awful, but they're all a little disappointing. Flicka, above, looks like a skyscraper with ears.
Something about this horse's head has just never sat right with me. He looks demonic, like a horse surging out of the sea to eat you.
Not awful, but lacking in any sort of realism or emotion. And orange.
There's just something off-putting about people lying on the ground with a horse running around in the background. It just seems more like a fall than a casual pose.
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Thursday, June 17, 2010
Fifty Acres And A Poodle is not exactly a horse story, but it's somewhat related. And, frankly, few horse stories have a sense of humor (well, you try cracking a joke while rescuing your beloved palomino stallion, Texas Sunset, from a kill buyer so he can race in the Kentucky Derby to win back the family ranch and show that mean old Jessica/Brittany/Alexandra you are TOO the best young rider in the Pony Club) so anything comic is a welcome change.
Fifty Acres And A Poodle: A Story Of Love, Livestock And Finding Myself On A Farm
Jeanne Marie Laskas
At 37, Laskas was a happy, self-sufficient writer living contentedly in an arty neighborhood of Pittsburgh with her aging cat. But to her considerable embarassment, she had a dream of farms which was largely rooted in a sitcom. Green Acres was the place for her. Even though:
I was a person who liked to go to the mall. I was a person who had no conflict about liking to go to the mall.
And then she realized that her old friend Alex is really something more like her really great potential love of her life Alex. And that the city, the wonderful urban surroundings she's thrived on for years, is beginning to wear on her.
Lately, in this city I love, this neighborhood I love, all I seem to notice are the intrusions. Hot air. Reeking garbage. Lunatic neighbors. Bus fumes. I am inventing filters. Stinky-garbage filters. Lunatic-neighbor filters. Noxious-bus-fume filters. Sometimes I imagine plugging a big air conditioner into the front of my head so I can block the rest of the world right the hell out.
That's not right.
And after much back-and-forthing, they buy it. A forty-acre farm forty miles from Pittsburgh with an 1887 bank barn and a pond and a house sporting a huge modern studio from a former owner off one end. And move in just in time for hunting season, complete with endless explosions from the woods nearby. And within days, her previously dubious boyfriend, urban guy and psychiatrist Alex, is hobnobbing with hunters -
When Lucy comes back with the fries, Alex stands and says goodbye to his new friend. "And hey," he says earnestly, "congratulations on your... dead deer."
- and she's appalled herself by reverting to girlishness.
I stand here thinking I should speak my mind. Because there is no way. There is no way I'm going to allow hunting anywhere near me. And I am a woman of the 1990s, active and independent-minded, fully in charge of my life. It is so important to me that I stand behind my beliefs and be heard, be known. This is a golden opportunity for me to spread my magnificent wings and soar.
I say: "I'll have to ask my husband..." It comes out like a series of chirps, dying bird chirps.
I won't spoil the rest by writing more. This memoir is funny, flippant and hugely entertaining. The only drawback is that it sometimes goes too deeply flippant, never quite managing to drop the pretense of wry cynicism at serious moments.
Laskas has written two follow-up memoirs, The Exact Same Moon and Growing Girls. As you might suspect from the title, the latter focuses on parenting and her daughters. As you might suspect of a memoir dealing with raising female children on a farm, there are even more horsey passages.
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Wednesday, June 9, 2010
And a quick reference on mustangs in general - the BLM, the U.S. agency that oversees the mustangs, offers online adoptions. For anyone who fantasizes about what you'd buy if you had the money, time, or remotely the skills to buy a wild horse, it's kinda addictive.
And a review which has little to do with mustangs except that the main characters are from the West, and their racehorses were originally wild. I'm not sure how that worked out with the Jockey Club when they went to the track, but who would dream of asking difficult questions of a horse book?
Tamarlane, Strange Son Of Desert Storm
1959, Dodd, Mead & Company
...the gate crashed open and a black and a gray body half reared in the openings, hung suspended for a fleeting instant, then flashed into the sunlight.
This third in a four-book series opens with Ponce Stuart's two champion racehorses, the black
To interject - the mare being raced while pregnant seems bizarre, the breakdown scene is heartbreaking, and the scenario that she is saved from death by a sling and cast seems dubious. Onward.
Shaken by the mare's tragedy and his own hard fall,
Three of the legs were perfectly formed, long and straight, with the big knees and ankles of all foals. The fourth, the right foreleg, was the same except for one thing. From ankle to hoof it was a solid, shapeless, queerly twisted lump.
After the first shock,
Despite the attractive illustrations and pleasingly over-the-top plots, Forster's books are plodding. The writing style is overripe, with a few too many trips to the Apache heritage well, and neither human nor equine characters seem particularly real. With one exception - Tamarlane's lazy, oddball personality does stand out in comparison to his more standard-issue parents, the brave mare and the wild stallion.
I could find out little for certain about the author. There are hints that he was born in
When it comes to stubbornness, feigned idiocy, laziness and complete lovableness, Mighwar has no equal on this earth.
Also, Forster mentions in the author's note in Tamarlane that he based the
Desert Storm (1955)
Mountain Stallion (1958)
Tamarlane, Strange Son Of Desert Storm (1959)
Stand-alone horse book
Run Fast! Run Far! (1962)
Proud Land (1954) - appears to be about an Apache chief
Anger In The Wind (1974) - appears to be a romantic saga about the early West
Odds and Ends
The full text of Mountain Stallion is available at Internet Archives
The pedigree of Mighwar, the model for Tamarlane
He also did editions of the comic series Classics Illustrated
Other books illustrated by Gerald McCann
Brumby, The Wild White Stallion by Mary Elwyn Patchett
Tam The Untamed by Mary Elwyn Patchett
Rosina Copper, Mystery Mare by Kitty Barne
The Conspiracy Of
Typee by Herman Melville
The Lion Of The North by G.A. Hentry
The Hunchback Of Notre Dame
The Conspiractor by Alexandre Dumas, pere
The Food Of The Gods by H.G. Wells
Tom Brown's School Days
Gerald McCann at AskArt
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Wednesday, June 2, 2010
And because I hate to do a post without an image and because of a recent series of Black Beauty-themed posts on the Books, Mud And Compost blog, I'm including an image of one of my favorite horsey possessions from childhood, a little 45 of the Anna Sewell story.
And for anyone who follows hunter/jumper shows, of course, Devon was/is this week. Equestrian Life provides a free live broadcast. Peter Leone and Select won the very big class, the $100,000 Grand Prix of Devon, on Thursday night. The final big class on Saturday night will be the $50,000 Idle Dice Open Jumper Stake. Below, a photo of Idle Dice and Rodney Jenkins, from the book Show Jumping by Pamela Macgregor-Morris.
Peter Pan Music
Wikipedia on Peter Pan
Better image of above cover
Philadelphia Inquirer - Leone And Select Take Grand Prix
The Showjumping Hall of Face - Idle Dice
The Showjumping Hall of Face - Rodney Jenkins
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