Sunday, January 30, 2011

Snow, snow, snow, snow

The Northeast Snowfall Impact Scale (NESIS) developed by Paul Kocin and Louis Uccellini of the National Weather Service characterizes and ranks high-impact Northeast snowstorms. These storms have large areas of 10 inch snowfall accumulations and greater. NESIS has five categories: Extreme, Crippling, Major, Significant, and Notable.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

I like that "Crippling" is only the second-worst category.

With well over a foot of snow on the ground and an ice storm on the way, I'm feeling a little jaded. Hence, some wintry lines from horse books. It's hard to judge whose feelings toward the winter are more bitter, the humans -

Oh, how I hated the winters. I loathed trailing about in the mud and the snow, blue-nosed and quaking with aching, numbing cold, labouring with bales of hay and buckets of feed for wild-eyed, ungrateful brutes who galloped up, spraying me with dirt, shoving and pushing me about, squealing and kicking at each other, and giving me crafty nips when I was not looking in case, for one misguided moment, I had imaged they actually liked me.
Not Quite A Horsewoman by Caroline Akrill

The thermometer outside the window read eighteen degrees above zero, but as she trudged down to the barn it felt more like eighteen below. It was starting to snow again. The gray sky had deepened and a thin film of blowing white was beginning to fog over the dark woods that bordered the pasture.
Vicki And The Black Horse by Sam Savitt

- or the horses.

Out into the cold and away from their cozy place in the woods the pony herd traveled. The little colts stayed close to their mothers and whimpered when frost pinched their noses.
Broomtail by Miriam E. Mason

The drifts were up to his chest, and it took all the strength of his powerful muscles to plunge his way through them. Often he had to rear and leap into them, one jump at a time, to break through at all.
Blitz: The Story of A Horse by Hetty Burlingame Beatty


While the book pictured has absolutely nothing to do with horses, the Haders did create one horse book, Little Appaloosa, and illustrated various horses for Louise Seaman's book Mr. Peck's Pets.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

More contest ponies in real life - and a literal Pony Book

Advertisement from a January 1916 issue of Farm Journal, taken from Google Books.

A magazine called The Farmer's Wife used Shetland Ponies as the grand prize to encourage children to sell subscriptions, back in the day of industrious childhoods, long before Girl Scouts sent their parents out to sell their cookies for them. In part, the ad above reads:

We Have Given Away 342 Ponies If You Want One Write Quickly

We have a big Pony book full of pictures and stories of Shetland Ponies written by happy boys and girls to whom we gave them. Send your name and address for free copy. You never read such a wonderful book. 342 boys and girls already made happy with one of these darling Shetland Ponies, each with buggy, harness, saddle, bridle and blanket, all free, sent prepaid. Outfit is easily worth $200. Who is the next boy or girl to have one? Speak quickly children or have your parents write; we want to give away 100 more but they won't last long. Every child has an equal chance no matter where you live. Write us a postcard or letter today.
Don't you just ache to send that postcard? Or at least send away for the book? Happily, there is still a contest to be entered. The blog Farmer's Wife Quilt is giving away copies of the author's latest book, The Farmer's Wife Pony Club Sampler Quilt. According to the blog:

The Farmer's Wife Pony Club Sampler Quilt will contain a letter and one or two photographs of each Lucky Pony Winner, and complete instructions for making a 90-block queen-size sampler quilt.
I'm not sure exactly how one makes a quilt, but the photos and letter sound irresistible. It seems to be one entry per person, and open to Americans and non-Americans alike.

About the publication
North Dakota journalist Edward A. Webb was already running a small media company when he bought a Minnesota newspaper in 1903 and handed it over to his sister, Ella. The family sold the paper in the 1939 to an agribusiness magazine familiar to me from its incongruous location on elegantly urban Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia - Farm Journal. This magazine folded the women's newspaper into a mere section of itself and eventually changed it to Farm Family Living. Farm Journal itself was an early practitioner of using databases and aggressive subscriber research to narrow their focus - and thus appeal to their advertisers.

1938 Time article on The Farmer's Wife
Nostalgiaville images of The Farmer's Wife covers
Minnesota Historical Society - The Webb Company
Farmer's Wife Quilt (blog) on Farm Journal history

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Other People's Blogs

As previously mentioned, I like thrift shops. One thing that frustrates me, though, is that I am not very good at finding anything there except books. I'm a bookhound; I can find the one weird, old, or unique book in the usual sea of Grisham and Steel and textbooks and romance novels and the inevitable copy of The Cross and the Switchblade. But when I try to browse the clothing or the junk, I'm lost and I find nothing. My mom walks into a thrift shop filled with mugs and ash trays and emerges with a little wooden box with a secret compartment or a piece of good silver jewelry with a simple but beautiful design. My sister sails out with insane clothing bargains, including the boots I've been searching for all year. (Which I then stole. She's forgiven me; after all, she found new ones the next week.)

In the same way, I'm horrible at finding stuff online. I tend to visit the same three sites, blogs and forums over and over. But today I actually went out looking for blogs with horse book entries. The results are below - some are recent, some are older, some are more about art or nostalgia than straight reviews.

WestEnd Talk
Artist Anne Bialk writes about her interest in horse and art.

Reading Tween
A kid's-eye book review of The Pony Whisperer by Janet Rising

Whitebrook Farm's recent review of Misty Of Chincoteague was a rare foray back to an old book for the blog, and worth reading just for this crack:

Paul and Maureen have been thrown at the Beebes because their parents are gallivanting around in China (for what seems like five and a half years), only their parents have made a crucial error. The Beebes own horses. Not only do they own horses, they live on Chicoteague island, an island packed with ponies. An island packed with ponies that holds annual pony festivals where they basically give these ponies away to any kid who mows enough lawns during the summer.

There is no way those parents are getting their kids back.
The Broke And The Bookish reviews a Young Adult fantasy, Behind The Mist by M.J. Evans. I'm not a fan of horses in sci/fantasy (maybe I've just never read one I liked) but many people seem to, and it does seem properly horsey:
Another thing that stood out to me about this novel was that you can really tell that Evans loves horses, and I especially loved that. There are times when a person is so passionate about something and you can just feel it in their words or what they say. Evans' passion absolutely shines through the pages, much in the same way that the power of love shines through Nick and Jazz. If you love horses, you will love this book, without a doubt.
Eva's Book Addiction reviews Pegasus by Robin McKinley.

Any Good Books/Mixed Reviews looks at The Horse Boy (nonfiction) by Rupert Isaacson.

Christian Children's Book Reviews examines early reader book Andi's Pony Trouble by Susan K. Marlow, which sounds kind of sweet. Also reviewed at My Precious Peas

Home School Book Review isn't enthused about Pony Farm Mystery by Pamela Kavanagh (it's from the Pony Club series, so I can guess it's not very good.)

Dovegreyreader Scribbles on Fly By Night by K.M. Peyton.

Mutterings And Meanderings on book hoarding and the Jill books.

The Wrath of Lilith on pony books as a mildly embarassing (secret shame) thing. Much enjoyed for this line:
Ah, old English books about rosy cheeked children dashing about having adventures on horse back and going to pony club rallies, hunter trials and gymkhanas.
Also the Pat Robertson quote on the blog header. Oh, Pat.

At the blog Komalius, the author reflects on her childhood love of horses, horse books, and being given the book How To Draw Horses by Walter T. Foster, which immediately struck a chord with me as horses are the only thing I really can draw, having had years of practice as a hopelessly wistful wannabe horse owner.

At The Boswellians, another reflection on childhood horse love, complete with photos, including one that made me sit up and think "That's my Merrylegs!" And if I end up spending the night digging out my box of Breyer models just to find my very own version of Anna Sewell's charming children's pony, I know who to blame.

On the Collector's Quest blog, one woman recalls her discovery, at a used book sale, that the Black Stallion books she grew up with originally had different covers:
I paid my 50 cents (my, this was a while ago now!), and I think I whinnied with excitement.
And, finally, ReRider Who's Learning To Cope looks at the male mentor character in horse books, from stern-and-right Michael in Summer Pony to Max in the Saddle Club books.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Horse books, fact and fiction, Part 1: You can win a horse!

Illustration by Jeanne Mellin, from The Complete Morgan Horse Book

Just in case you thought the scenario of book characters winning a horse was a total fantasy...

The American Morgan Horse Association/Team Morgan's Win a Morgan Horse Contest It takes an application, an essay, a DVD, two letters of reference and a $50 entry fee, but this contest open to kids under 21 and running until January 19 (next Wednesday) is the real deal. A lucky child is set to win a 2-year-old chestnut filly.

It goes against the zeitgeist in my neck of the American woods, but raffling off large farm animals is still done in more rural zones. At the Midwest Horse Fair this past year, you could win a Haflinger, a draft horse, Tennessee Gaited Walker Pony, and a Quarter Horse at various raffles. (from an Examiner article). And apparently, it's quite common (and a more controlled, sensible setting) for 4-H clubs to award equines to club members in contests.

And in related, dreaming-of-a-farm news, you can also win a cow (a Belted Galloway, no less) from Grit magazine. Their rules require that you possess at least two acres of fenced land, with access to a shelter and water. I have with difficulty restrained myself from entering. I was less successful when their website helpfully informed me that sister pub Mother Earth News is running a contest with a chicken coop as the main prize.

Oddly, I can't really recall too many books where Our Plucky Heroine actually flat-out won a horse or pony by pure chance. Usually there's at least a veneer of 'worthy' effort on their part. I imagine writers typically felt it was too 'easy' or implausible, as if just accidentally tripping in front of Squire Jones's hunter so he has to make your acquaintance, or just happening to see Old Man Schaeffer's favorite mare foaling downstream of where the floods are threatening to burst a dam - well this stuff could happen to anyone if she was just Plucky enough. In any event, these are what I could scrounge up.

Books where tots win ponies/horses/etc.
Dream Pony in the Sandy Lane Stable series by Susannah Leigh (1998)
Becky's Horse by Winifred Madison (1978)
The Pony Problem by Barbara Holland (1977)
Harry's Pony (an I Can Read book) by Barbara Ann Porte (1973)
National Velvet by Enid Bagnold (1935)
Heartland Skies by Melody Carlson (romance; city girl wins horse, falls for cowboy)(1998)

The Pony Problem, which has a particularly pretty cover, was a favorite of mine. The kid heroine (in full 1970s feminista) wins a pony in a contest then wars with her small-minded suburbanite neighbors to keep him.

Becky's Horse is a story of a girl who realizes she must sacrifice her dream so that her family can afford to ship endangered relatives out of WWII Europe. The cunning setup - girl matures through losing something - strikes me as appalling misogyny. Common as it is as a theme in children's literature, it's always on the girls. I've yet to come across a book where little Timmy learns that sacrifice is beautiful.

National Velvet, of course, features Velvet Brown winning The Pie in a raffle.

And of course, in terms of winning a cow, there was Trumper, whose hero used his horse to win a black Angus calf.

Late Addition to Blog
Also in the category of winning a horse but without the moral issues, the blog 3Ps In A Pod is running a contest for horse-crazy little girls to win a Breyer model horse. With brushable manes and tails. Horse Barbies!