Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Great Pony Hassle (1993)

The Great Pony Hassle
Nancy Springer, il. Daniel Mark Duffy
1993, Dial Books

“You promised!” Paisley McPherson yelled at her father.  “You told me if we had to live here, you’d get me a pony! You did!”

Two sets of twins become siblings when their parents marry.  And although big, brash Paisley is the only one who actually says it, all four girls want ponies.  As Paisley sets out to secure her equine and build him somewhere to live…

“I don’t believe this.  We go away, come back a couple days later, and the backyard’s turned into a pony farm.”

… her sisters watch with slitted eyes.  Her twin, Stirling, affects to not care.  The Fontecchio twins, Toni and Staci, also fake indifference but of course, all three are wild with jealousy.  And no wonder.

He was a palomino, a round, short-legged little palomino with a mass of forelock, like bangs that needed to be combed and trimmed, over those huge eyes.  He had enough creamy-blond mane and tail for six ordinary ponies.  His golden ears, turned at a contented sideward angle, pricked tiny through his thick mane.  His golden cheeks and pink nose moved as he selected a tuft of daisies and chewed it.  His tail, long and plump, swished almost as white as the flowers.

The pony, Noodles, and the silent girl-war carried out through disinformation, things left unsaid and other classic girl tactics, befuddle the doting father.  Clearing everything up, finally, is his brisk, horsey sister Caledonia, who comes to assess the pony and ends up instantly figuring out what’s going on with the kids.  It's a funny, accurate, age-appropriate book.

Kirkus review – pretty accurate
Nancy Springer’s website (includes brief essay about horses)

Other books – horsey
Sky Rider
The Boy On A Black Horse
They’re All Named Wildfire (I must interject that this is possibly the best horsey title ever)
A Horse To Love
Not On A White Horse
Music Of Their Hooves: Poems About Horses

Short story
"The Boy Who Plaited Manes" (Fantasy & Science Fiction magazine, October 1986)

Friday, February 22, 2013

Conquista! (1978)

Clyde Robert Bulla and Michael Syson, il. Ronald Himler
1978, Thomas Y. Crowell

In South America, Pizarro plundered the Incas and sent their gold to Spain.  Other Spaniards traveled far into North America in search of treasure.  One was Coronado.  Much is known of his expedition, but there is much that can never be known.  What follows is not a historical account.  It tells what might have happened.

A very short (35-page) and simple book revolving around the early days of the horse in North America.  In this imagining, a lost horse from Coronado’s 1540 expedition comes across a Native American boy who’s alone on the plains, waiting for a vision that will reveal his true name.  When boy meets horse, he’s astonished, terrified – and quickly obsessed with riding him. 

The desert was flying past him – the earth, the rocks, the growing things.  Once this land had made him feel small, but no longer. 

Bulla wrote a lot of books, and many were horsey.  I’ve come across many and remember a few from childhood.  They’re quick, smart, and capably written, but only one is truly memorable.  Dexter, a haunting story of a pony left to die when a troubled family skips town suddenly, has the depth and complexity that most of Bulla’s work lacks.  Since most of his books are written for younger children, this is not exactly a scathing criticism, I admit, but I think some of his books seem to have been churned out rather perfunctorily.

The book was inspired by a 1971 short film by Michael Syson, which is apparently one of those films that both lingered in viewer’s memories and was thereafter extremely difficult to track down.  Reportedly a British production, it was shot in Spain in 1970 and shown in different versions and lengths in various countries at various times. 

Bulla was born in Missouri and seems to have be determined to be a writer from an early age.  He persisted until finally establishing himself with children’s books, and moved to Los Angeles in the 1940s.  An extremely prolific writer, he produced about a book a year throughout his life.

Other books (equine)
Riding The Pony Express
Star Of Wild Horse Canyon
A Ranch For Danny
Three Dollar Mule
The Wild Arabian
The Donkey Cart
Surprise For A Cowboy
Old Charlie

Born and raised in Ohio, Himler has illustrated many children’s books.

Other horse books
The Best Horse Ever by Alice DeLaCroix (picture book)
Someday Rider by Ann Herbert Scott  (picture book)
A Grass Green Gallop by Patricia Hubbell (poetry collection for children)


Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Little Brown Horse (1959)

The Little Brown Horse
Margaret G. Otto, il. Barbara Cooney
1959, Alfred A. Knopf

A foal goes in search of his missing friends, the cat and hen, and discovers a new crop of farm babies in this simple picture book.

About the Author
Margaret G. Hansl was a New York literary agent who married Stuart Otto.  She was a neighbor of fellow author Robert Lawson (Rabbit Hill), and executor of his estate.  She and her husband collaborated on nonfiction books for children, and Margaret wrote several picture books.

About the illustrator

Barbara Cooney (1917-2000) wrote and illustrated many children's books.  This blog entry about her contains an image of the book's dust jacket.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

And more Budweiser Clydesdale....

As background the the Super Bowl commerical, an ABC Sports reporter visits Warm Springs Ranch, Anheuser-Busch's Clydesdale breeding facility in Missouri.  Amazing barns, beautiful stalls, just a pretty place. 

The companys equine holdings include Grant's Farm in St. Louis (original home of the company founder) and a brewery in New Hampshire.  According to an Equitrekking interview with a handler, the horses start their training at Grant's Farm, then go to the New Hampshire facility for most of their education.

The foal featured in the commercial was, after a Twitter contest, named Hope. 

The first time I went to the tack store, I lost my head and bought a Breyer model.  For myself.  I was 28 at the time.  I couldn't resist; he was bay.  A bright bay Clydesdale.  He cantered around my desk before he joined the Breyer stables which take up an inordinate amount of space along along the dusty tops of my bookshelves. 

I really need to find a Clydesdale book to review.  Christina Wilsdon kindly emailed to remind me of Marguerite Henry's Five O'Clock Charlie (briefly reviewed here in 2009) and Joyce Stranger's Breed of Giants, which is about Shires.  Then there's Jessie Haas's Uncle Daney's Way, about a Belgian or perhaps a grade draft type.