Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Pony Book Advent Calendar: Christmas Day, 2013

The Christmas Day pony book is Patricia Leitch's Horse of Fire, which contains some of my favourite Christmas pieces. Patricia Leitch isn't a judgemental writer, and she's certainly not judgemental about spirituality. Mysticism, Celtic mythology and Christianity all get equal respect in her books. Horse of Fire is the eleventh book of the series, and in it Jinny and Shantih are roped in to the local nativity play. Jinny has fine and splendid dreams about how she and Shantih will appear as glorious king and even more glorious horse, but when the moment comes, it's not like that at all. Jinny is cast into utter misery, but then, as they're leaving, a little boy stops and stares up at Shantih.

"The little boy stared up at Shantih, his eyes wide with tiredness and excitement.'I saw them,' he stated stubbornly. 'It was the golden wings it had.''You're right,' said Ken, speaking directly to the little boy. 'I saw them too.''Filling his head with such nonsense,' snapped the woman, but the child's face lit up as he smiled at Ken.'You see,' said Ken, as they watched the little boy being dragged away. 'It is always worthwhile. All his life he'll remember Shantih's golden wings. Tell his grandchildren about them.'A surge of gratitude lifted through Jinny. It had all been worthwhile - the hassle, the striving, the not giving in. For the little boy the nativity play had been as wonderful as Jinny had wanted it to be for everyone." 

And then Jinny and Ken, after they confound the deer smugglers who've been plaguing the moors, go to the Tinkers' celebration of Christmas.

"Here there were no costumes, no kings, no one striving to make this simple ceremony the best ever. It was as it was. Suddenly Jinny saw that all her efforts to turn the Glenbost nativity play into a spectaular happening had only been a way of showing off, wanting to make people see her as the best king, to admire Shantih. She hadn't really cared about the nativity. She had only cared about Jinny Manders being the most. 
They went one by one and knelt before the Child. Sara first, the other tinkers, then Ken, and last of all Jinny. It seemed they moved in a formal, precise dance in which all played their part - those who waited and those who knelt. Jinny would have left Shantih as Ken had left Bramble but Sara motioned her to take Shantih with her. While Jinny knelt Shantih breathed warm sweet breath over the baby, who opened his eyes and laughed."

Happy Christmas.

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Pony Book Advent Calendar: December 24th, 2013

It's Christmas Eve. In Kate Seredy's The Good Master, which is set in pre First World War Hungary, Christmas Eve is special. It's celebrated with stories, one of which is the tale of idle Prince Matyas and his favourite servant Matyi. Together, they search on their horses for the land where everybody lives forever. Eventually, from the back of a flying horse, Prince Matyas he is shown his own country - the only place he can live forever. "Love your people and work for them as they work for you," he's told. "Then you will live in their memory... for ever and ever."

and here's the cover. 

You can read more about Kate Seredy here

Read more about the pony book in Heroines on Horsebackmy survey of the world of the pony book from the 1930s onwards.You can buy a signed copy from me (I'll post them worldwide). The book's also available from the usual sources, or your local bookshop.

Monday, 23 December 2013

Pony Book Advent Calendar: December 23rd, 2013

If you were a pony obsessive in the UK, then you probably would have read Pony Magazine at some point. The early issues of the magazine rather went to town with their Christmas covers. Here's one from December 1950. I can't help but think that the horse on the right looks like a llama. 

You can read more about Pony Magazine, and the Pony Magazine Annual, here

Read more about the pony book in Heroines on Horsebackmy survey of the world of the pony book from the 1930s onwards.You can buy a signed copy from me (I'll post them worldwide). The book's also available from the usual sources, or your local bookshop.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Pony Book Advent Calendar: December 22nd, 2013

Here is one for American readers. Photographer Jill Krementz did three books of photographs following gifted children: A Very Young Dancer, A Very Young Gymnast, and A Very Young Rider. This last is remembered with enormous fondness by many of my American friends. The subject of the book, Vivi Malloy, had a charmed and pony-filled childhood, and she was the ultimate in wish-fulfilment.

The book follows Vivi's progress round the American show circuit, and during the course of it, her pony Penny is sold because Vivi's outgrown her. However, Vivi does indeed get the Christmas present thousands upon thousands of horse mad children longed for: a pony.  Here she is unwrapping the first element of the present:

You can read more about Jill Krementz and A Very Young Rider here

Read more about the pony book in Heroines on Horsebackmy survey of the world of the pony book from the 1930s onwards. You can buy a signed copy from me (I'll post them worldwide). The book's also available from the usual sources, or your local bookshop.

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Pony Book Advent Calendar: December 21st, 2013

I had to get Jill in here somewhere, and here she is, at her first Christmas in Chatton. Earlier in Jill's Gymkhana, from which the illustration and extract come, Jill walks some children to school, for which she's paid. Mrs Crewe doesn't approve of Jill being paid for this at all - she's allowed to accept an apple or some sweets, but that's it. Jill's devastated, as she'd planned on using the money to feed Black Boy during the winter.

Now I'm older, I must admit I do wonder what those parents who paid Jill must have thought when their payments were returned. I like to think that they sympathised with her efforts to keep her pony, and I'm glad they gave Jill something splendid for Christmas which her mother couldn't reject.

"The magnificent thing was soon revealed, a lovely dark-blue pony rug bound round with scarlet. I was speechless. It was Mummy who picked up the card and read aloud, "To Jill Crewe, with many thanks, from the mothers of Jennifer, Angela, Jane and Elizabeth..... Of course the first thing I did was to rush off to try the rug on Black Boy. He looked wonderful with it on, and exactly like a blood pony, and he arched his neck and bucked a bit, just showing off because he knew how nice he looked; so I walked him up and down in front of the cottage windows and Mummy and Martin waved approval. 
After getting all these wonderful presents, especially the horsy ones that I hadn't expected, I think you will agree with me that it was a very nice Christmas."

You can read more about Ruby Ferguson here

Read more about the pony book in Heroines on Horsebackmy survey of the world of the pony book from the 1930s onwards. Jill gets a whole chapter to herself. You can buy a signed copy from me (I'll post them worldwide). The book's also available from the usual sources, or your local bookshop.

Friday, 20 December 2013

Pony Book Advent Calendar: December 20th, 2013

Today it's the turn of one of the very earliest pony books. Joanna Cannan, mother of the Pullein-Thompsons, wrote A Pony for Jean in 1936. Jean and her family have to leave their expensive London life for a cottage in the country, after her father loses his money. As was to be the case for most pony book families, poverty was relative, and didn't mean scrapping along on the breadline. 

Jean finds she's living quite close to her cousins, for whom money is no problem at all. They have a pony they don't ride - Cavalier, and they give him to Jean. Cavalier, when she gets him, is underweight and rather neglected, but Jean manages to rehabilitate him, and teach herself to ride with remarkably little fanfare. Joanna Cannan, unlike her daughters, never went in for loving descriptions of schooling. Indeed, in one of her later books, Gaze at the Moon, the re-schooling of Air Frost is skipped over: "I will not describe how we schooled Air Frost because it is all set out in books on how to school horses and really it was very simple..." Whether this was a dig at her daughters I do not know.

For Christmas, one of Jean's best presents is a proper hoofpick, which is a major step up from the screwdriver she had to use before.

"I found an orange, and a tangerine which I ate, and a little paper bag full of acid drops, and then, right down in the toe was the best thing of all - the proper tool for picking out horses' hoofs. I was awfully pleased because up to now I had had to use a screwdriver."

Here's a bonus picture - an early printing.

You can read more about Joanna Cannan here

Read more about the pony book in Heroines on Horsebackmy survey of the world of the pony book from the 1930s onwards. There's a whole, long, chapter about the Pullein-Thompsons, with biographical info, and analysis of their books. You can buy a signed copy from me (I'll post them worldwide). The book's also available from the usual sources, or your local bookshop.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Pony Book Advent Calendar: December 19th, 2013

Today's pony book choice is another of my favourites, Josephine Pullein-Thompson's All Change. This is the story of a family whose security is suddenly whisked away from them when the owner of the estate on which they live and work dies, and the estate is bought by a Financial Wizard. I like the way the clashes between different ways of doing things are handled, and the relationships of the children shift.

I particularly love the Christmas scenes in this book.

"Mummy appeared from the sitting-room. "Bed,' she said. 'Go on, Rory, have a bath and mind you wash. Go on. Hurry up or Father Christmas won't come,' she threatened.
'Don't believe in him,' said Rory going upstairs backwards and as slowly as possible. 'I know it's only you and Dad.'
The rest of us were shooed to bed at ungodly hours with irritating threats about Father Christmas. And it was all nonsense because the parents always go to the Midnight Mass and do the stockings when they get back, and that wasn't likely to be much before a quarter to one."

The book's full of stuff like this; all acutely observed. It's the title of hers that I'd really love to see re-published.

You can read more about Josephine Pullein-Thompson here

Read more about the pony book in Heroines on Horsebackmy survey of the world of the pony book from the 1930s onwards. There's a whole, long, chapter about the Pullein-Thompsons, with biographical info, and analysis of their books. You can buy a signed copy from me (I'll post them worldwide). The book's also available from the usual sources, or your local bookshop.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Pony Book Advent Calendar: December 18th, 2013

Ah, Jackie and Babs. Whatever they touch, it all goes horribly, horribly wrong. They mean so well. Their intentions are the best. It's not always their fault that disaster strikes, but I do sometimes wonder how much the authors (for Judith M Berrisford was husband and wife team, Clifford and Mary Lewis) actually liked their creation. In today's Advent pony book, Ten Ponies for Jackie, Jackie and Babs are trying to help hapless teenager Terry run a riding school. 

As part of their campaign to raise money for starving moorland ponies, they go carol singing. One of the carol singers, Dennis, decides it's as good idea to ride his pony into someone's house, and disaster ensues. Worst of all, the main opponent of the riding school is there.
"Despairingly I recognised that booming voice... She was Harriet Ridgeway very much in person! 
She took off her mask as though to get a clearer view of the scene of disaster. Ponies were trampling over the hall while the Terry Lane stable supporters tried to get them out."

Geoffrey Whittam's illustration conveys the horror better than words ever could. Poor Jackie and Babs, and poor Terry too. Sensible adults come and run the stable, and Terry's to stay on as assistant. Realistic yes, but I always felt sorry for poor Terry, though according to his creators, he's "about the happiest boy in Britain" about the whole thing.

You can read more about Judith M Berrisford and her pony books here

Read more about the pony book in Heroines on Horsebackmy survey of the world of the pony book from the 1930s onwards. You can buy a signed copy from me (I'll post them worldwide). The book's also available from the usual sources, or your local bookshop.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Pony Book Advent Calendar: December 17th, 2013

Today's choice is a sweet (and short) story for the younger reader, Helen Kay's A Pony for the Winter. 

You can read more about Helen Kay here

Read more about the pony book in Heroines on Horsebackmy survey of the world of the pony book from the 1930s onwards. You can buy a signed copy from me (I'll post them worldwide). The book's also available from the usual sources, or your local bookshop.

Monday, 16 December 2013

Pony Book Advent Calendar: December 16th, 2013

Yesterday's choice, Elyne Mitchell's Silver Brumby's Daughter, is appropriately snowy for a European audience in the middle of winter, but not quite so good for an Australian one, for whom it's now summer. So, here's Anne Farrell's The Gift-Wrapped Pony - a pony present, not exactly for Christmas, but it's sort of within the theme.

The Guara books, of which The Gift-Wrapped Pony is the first, is the story of the Mitchell family. Mr Mitchell has had enough of his children's pony, Aurum, who is a dedicated escapologist, and the family dedicate themselves to saving her.

You can read more about Anne Farrell here

Read more about the pony book in Heroines on Horsebackmy survey of the world of the pony book from the 1930s onwards, though alas the Australian content is restricted to Elyne Mitchell, and there's not much on her. You can buy a signed copy from me (I'll post them worldwide). The book's also available from the usual sources, or your local bookshop.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Pony Book Advent Calendar: December 15th, 2013

Reading Elyne Mitchell's Silver Brumby series coloured my view of Australia as a child. My view's expanded a bit now to include some of the more minor geographical elements, like Sydney, and Melbourne, and Uluru, but if you'd asked me as child what was in Australia I'd have said mountains, and snowy ones at that. Not all the Silver Brumby stories take place in snow by any means, but those are the bits that I remember best: the Brumbies galloping lightly over the snow; ghost horses disappearing into the mist, and foolish Lightning getting himself and his mares trapped in the snow. I think my snow-bound view of the Brumbies was helped by the marvellous cover illustrations Peter Archer did for the later Dragon printing of Silver Brumby's Daughter, which is today's Advent calendar pony book.

You can read more about Elyne Mitchell here, and see some of the many Brumby printings.

Read more about the pony book in Heroines on Horsebackmy survey of the world of the pony book from the 1930s onwards. You can buy a signed copy from me (I'll post them worldwide). The book's also available from the usual sources, or your local bookshop.

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Pony Book Advent Calendar: December 14th , 2013

Today's pony book is Alan Smith's Snowy. Snowy is one of those pony biographies that were so popular in the twenties and thirties. It's the story of a Welsh pony whose fortunes decline, until he is rescued. Alan Smith is better known as the former equestrian correspondent of the Daily Telegraph.

You can read more about Alan Smith here

Read more about the pony book in Heroines on Horsebackmy survey of the world of the pony book from the 1930s onwards. You can buy a signed copy from me (I'll post them worldwide). The book's also available from the usual sources, or your local bookshop.

Friday, 13 December 2013

Pony Book Advent Calendar: December 13th

Here's another of my favourites. I love the vertiginous hill in Mary Gernat's cover illustration, which as far as I can remember from that part of Surrey, isn't exactly typical, but I love it nevertheless. Monica Edwards' Black Hunting Whip sees the Thornton family moving into Punchbowl Farm, and is one of the books that sees her getting into her stride as a writer. It's a ghost story which doesn't feel like a ghost story; at least not one of the ones that leaves you too terrified to move from your chair (I am not a big reader of spooky stuff, as you can probably tell). The ghost here is almost courtly. 

Black Hunting Whip is a book which has lovely Christmas scenes in it, particularly the bit where Lindsey, who's condemned to bed over Christmas after giving herself concussion, has Christmas brought to her.

"Lindey's mother brought holly and ivy and a bowl of snowdrops from the downstairs rooms to make her bedroom festive, and Peter brought one of the coloured paper balls to hang among her rafters. The wood fire crackled zestfully on the brick hearth and Andrea came up and dusted and tidied till everything was perfect. 
Peter brought Sula, Tarquin and Red Clover one by one to Lindsey's wndow to show her all were well, and they were given Christmas apples and sugar lumps while she watched."

You can read more about Monica Edwards, and her Punchbowl Farm and Romney Marsh series, here

There's plenty more about Monica, including an analysis of her books, in Heroines on Horsebackmy survey of the world of the pony book from the 1930s onwards. You can buy a signed copy from me (I'll post them worldwide). The book's also available from the usual sources, or your local bookshop.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Pony Book Advent Calendar: December 12th

Wendy Douthwaite wrote most of her pony books in the 1990s, a period when I was taking a break from my longstanding relationship with the genre. Douthwaite's probably best known for her Polly series, about a grey Arab mare, but she also wrote a few standalone pony books. Christmas Pony is a gentle story about a bereaved girl who saves up enough to buy a foal. 

You can read more about Wendy Douthwaite here

Read more about the pony book in Heroines on Horsebackmy survey of the world of the pony book from the 1930s onwards. You can buy a signed copy from me (I'll post them worldwide). The book's also available from the usual sources, or your local bookshop.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Pony Book Advent Calendar: December 11th 2013

Here's another favourite pony book of mine. Author Diana Pullein-Thompson regards this book as one of her worst; derivative and predictable, but I loved it, as I suspect many other pony loving children did precisely because it was unrealistic. When I called the fire brigade to a fire on a farm, no one gave me a reward, and if I ever had bought a pony, I don't imagine it would have been a swan in disguise. I'd more likely have ended up with something Thelwell would have featured with glee: a pony red in tooth and claw; a pony who did not have my best interests at heart.

But I loved this book. I loved Augusta's relationship with her sniffy, snobbish cousins. I loved the way she bests them, but always remains true to herself, and in particular, I loved the way she sells pretty well everything she has so she can buy Daybreak, and how she perseveres until he comes right.

The copy pictured below is the version I read.

You can read more about Diana Pullein-Thompson here, and see all the many versions of I Wanted a Pony, as well as all her other books.

Read more about the pony book in Heroines on Horsebackmy survey of the world of the pony book from the 1930s onwards. There is an entire (long) chapter on the Pullein-Thompsons. You can buy a signed copy from me (I'll post them worldwide). The book's also available from the usual sources, or your local bookshop.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Pony Book Advent Calendar: December 10th

Today's pony book is Monica Dickens' Word's End in Winter, part of her four book World's End series. The series was one of my favourites as a child. I loved the World's End children, their animals, and their parentless existence. I knew these books just about off by heart. Here's the version I had, and in fact still have, though I will admit to having acquired a hardback version as well. 

The World's End series wasn't received well at the hand of critics: Nicholas Tucker said that the books appealed to "a host of pre-adolescent fantasies and prejudices," which of course it did, but as one of those it appealed to, I didn't care. It was a spiky, difficult, but magical world. 

You can read more about Monica Dickens here, and wallow in the rest of her pony books, which include the immensely popular Follyfoot series. If you're a fan of the TV version, you can't do better than look at the Follyfoot Tribute Site

Read more about the pony book in Heroines on Horsebackmy survey of the world of the pony book from the 1930s onwards. You can buy a signed copy from me (I'll post them worldwide). The book's also available from the usual sources, or your local bookshop.

Monday, 9 December 2013

Pony Book Advent Calendar: December 9th

Today's pony book is Pamela Cockerill's Winter Ponies, a rarity from the 1980s. The story was based on Pamela's own experiences riding beach ponies she borrowed.

You can read more about Pamela Cockerill here

Read more about the pony book in Heroines on Horsebackmy survey of the world of the pony book from the 1930s onwards. You can buy a signed copy from me (I'll post them worldwide). The book's also available from the usual sources, or your local bookshop.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Pony Book Advent Calendar: December 8th 2013

Today's pony book is an iconic European pony book, one of the few which was translated into English. German author Ursula Bruns was just one of a whole mass of German pony book authors, who sadly remain mostly untranslated into English. 

Snow Ponies, originally published as Dick und Dally und der Ponys, is a charming read of feisty children and Icelandic ponies. Author Ursula Bruns is widely credited with saving the Icelandic pony from extinction, after she imported a herd to Germany. 

You can read more about Ursula Bruns here, as well as see pictures of her pony books. 

Read more about the pony book in Heroines on Horsebackmy survey of the world of the pony book from the 1930s onwards. You can buy a signed copy from me (I'll post them worldwide). The book's also available from the usual sources, or your local bookshop.

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Pony Book Advent Calendar: December 7th 2013

Today's pony book is Judith M Berrisford's Jackie and the Missing Showjumper. The Jackie series was written over a 25 year period, and although the girls (scarcely) age, life in the 1980s was very different from 1958 when the first book of the series, Jackie Wins a Pony appeared.  This book is shows Jackie and Babs lurching into the 1980s and its world of pop stars. Being utterly pony-mad, the best pop star to Jackie and Babs is one who owns a horse. This pop star owns a show jumper, and Jackie and Babs are going to be spending their Christmas holidays looking after it. 

Judith M Berrisford is an interesting author. Judith M Berrisford was a pseudonym used by a husband and wife couple, Clifford and Mary Lewis, Berrisford being Mary's maiden name. Berrisford produced one of the longest pony series with the Jackie books, clocking in at sixteen titles, as well as over fifteen other pony stories.

You can read more about Judith M Berrisford here, as well as see pictures of her pony books. 

Read more about the pony book in Heroines on Horseback, my survey of the world of the pony book from the 1930s onwards. You can buy a signed copy from me (I'll post them worldwide). The book's also available from the usual sources, or your local bookshop. 

Friday, 6 December 2013

Pony Book Advent Calendar: December 6th 2013

Today's book is Eleanor Helme's White Winter, which alas I can't show pictures of because of copyright issues. It's set in the long, hard winter of 1947, when it snowed, and snowed and snowed. It was only two years after the war ended, and Britain's coal stocks were much depleted, to add to the misery.  No one in White Winter feels sorry for themselves, though, and the book's a wonderful evocation of a time when mustn't grumble was a national mantra.

Here's some film of what it was like in 1947. It doesn't get as far as Exmoor, though my part of the world, Northamptonshire, gets a look in.


Author Eleanor Helme started her writing career as a golf correspondent. She always had a fondness for Exmoor, and moved there with her sister. Eleanor continued to write children's books, bible stories and nature books, many inspired by Exmoor. White Winter is the last of her Adam series, about a family and their Exmoor pony, Adam.

You can learn more about Eleanor Helme here, and see pictures of many of her books.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Pony Book Advent Calendar 2013

It'll be a post a day after today, but if you'd like to follow my pony book advent calendar, with a bit more information on the authors and the books, you can do it here. The calendar also pops up on my forum and Facebook page.

December 1st
Ursula Moray-William's Golden Horse with a Silver Tail  - suitably decorative for this time of year.

December 2nd
How many of us did this every single Christmas? Here's Monica Edwards' Wish for a Pony, and for Tamzin, of course, that dream came true. 

December 3rd
A classic read by an American author, Jean Slaughter Doty's Winter Pony is beautifully illustrated by Ted Lewin. If you want to read the original text, be aware that the version currently in print is intended for those who find it difficult to read. The original book is available reasonably cheaply in paperback, published by Scholastic.

December 4th
I love the cover of this. It's one of those lovely wraparound ones Puffin produced in the 1950s. The book is Snow Cloud Stallion, by Gerald Raftery.

December 5th
Pantomime is a central part of many people's Christmas, and Gillian Baxter's Pantomime Ponies is the story of Magic and Moonshine, two ponies who appear on the stage.


Friday, 29 November 2013

Review: Kate Lattey - Dare to Dream

Beg, borrow or steal an Ereader if you don't have one. This book is so far only available in electronic format, and you absolutely have to read it. This is a book that grabs you and doesn't let go.

It's the story of three sisters, Kris, Van and Marley, and their horse operation in New Zealand. The girl's mother died when Marley was born, and their father was killed in an accident three years ago, leaving them to struggle on in an attempt to keep their farm going, and their family together.

Easy is the absolute last thing it is. Kris broke her spine falling from her horse; she and middle sister Van both left school without any qualifications, and life is a constant, hard struggle. The sisters just about keep the wolf from the door by buying problem horses, schooling them, and selling them on. Just when it looks as if their ship might come in, with a pony who might win Pony of the Year, ridden by talented youngest sister, Marley, Nimble has a serious accident.

They find an unbroken pinto pony, Cruise, and he turns out to be the pony of a lifetime for Marley. The trouble with ponies of a lifetime is that on the hyper-competitive show circuit, everyone else wants to buy them, and there are some who aren't too particular in what they're willing to do to stop Marley and Cruise winning. And of course if you have the pony of a lifetime, you love him, and you want to keep him and not have him sold from under you even if it does mean the family home won't be sold. That's the crucial dilemma of the book - can you hold on to everything you love?

The author involves you completely in her characters' lives. Will Marley manage to negotiate her truly terrible efforts at school work, her first experience of romance, and an almighty dust up with her best friend?  Lattey has an excellent ear for dialogue, and doesn't sugar-coat her characters, her horses, or the situations. What you get is entirely believable, and engrossing. You are right behind the characters in their fight to survive.  The ponies are brilliant too. It is not easy to write a good pony - it's all too easy to have them mere vehicles for the story - but Kate Lattey achieves it effortlessly.

The plot is completely convincing. I do like a book where I haven't worked out how it will end well before I've got there. This is a fairly lengthy book, and there are a couple of places where the plot seems to lose a little pace, but this is really nitpicking at what is a very good book indeed.

I absolutely loved Dare to Dream. My only regret is that pressure of work meant it was sitting on my ereader for weeks before I had time to read it. I finished it in tears. It's moving, wrenching, funny. Goodness, it's good.

~  0  ~

Kate Lattey: Dare to Dream
Kindle, £1.88
Click here for details on other ways to download the book - there are plenty. You do not have to have a Kindle.

Age of main characters: 15, older sisters 18 and 21
The occasional swearword, but mild and don't let it put you off.

Kate Lattey's website

Thanks to the author for sending me a copy of this book

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Review: Maggie Dana - Taking Chances

If you've rather lost faith with the Timber Ridge Riders series, take heart. Maggie Dana has excelled herself with the latest episode. 

Taking Chances in the Timber Ridge Riders series is set just before Christmas, so is a good seasonal read. Heroine Kate still needs to ride in one more competition to have any chance of qualifying for the Festival of Horses competition. Unfortunately, an accident means she’s really up against it. As it’s a horse story, it does follow the convention of overcoming physical adversity successfully, but the rest of the plot is readable, funny and perceptive. Best of all, the author has moved away from the model she’s followed in all the previous books, and although arch villain Angela Dean is still present, she doesn’t sabotage Kate, or do her down. Instead, we get to see rather more of Angela’s life, after her mother sells her horse from under her and presents her with another as a fait accompli.

Besides Kate, best friend Holly is present, fizzing with life, and with Kate, plotting their not wholly successful attempts to get their respective parents together. The adults in the book are nicely judged, and it’s particularly good to see boys playing such a large part in a horse story plot too. Brad is doing a good job as Kate’s very good friend, who might be more, and both he, and Adam, Holly’s boyfriend, play a real part of the plot, instead of being characterless add ons.

This is a really enjoyable read: we get to see Kate exploring other worlds, like ski-ing, and parties, and attempting to negotiate the minefields of teenage socialising. What I enjoyed most about this episode in the series was being able to relax and genuinely enjoy it, instead of watching out for predictable plot points. I wanted to find out what happened next, thoroughly enjoyed it when I did, and I’m looking forward to the next episode.

Maggie Dana: Taking Chances
(Timber Ridge Riders, 7)
Paperback: £5.99
Ebook: £1.91

Age of main character - 14

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

A quick report on fly grazing and welfare

Even if you live in the inner City, you've probably seen fly grazing, where herds of horses suddenly appear on land that they don't have permission to be on. Near where I used to live, on the Wellingborough embankment, the local council spent thousands some years ago on putting up smart post and rail fencing around its land. Little of it now survives, because it has been removed by people breaking down the fences to graze their ponies. These ponies are regularly, repetitively, complained about on welfare grounds to the local authority, and to World Horse Welfare, the RSPCA... you name it. I've complained myself. My son and I corralled a skewbald who'd got loose one evening until the police turned up to deal with it.

Fly grazing near Irchester
Last year, the Embankment horses were finally removed because of welfare concerns. I don't know what happened to those horses, and I've since moved from the area, but when I drove back that way a couple of months ago, guess what? There are horses back in those fields again. The fields regularly flood, because they're next to the river, and the horses are often seen, huddling on the verge next to the road, where they're fed bread, and goodness' knows what else, by the many people worried about them.

There have been sad cases in our local press of horses found drowned, from herds fly grazing in the flood plains round the River Nene.

Fly grazing isn't restricted just to Wellingborough. Today (26 November, 2013) there was a debate in Westminster Hall on fly grazing, and the need to introduce more effective legislation.

The Welsh Assembly has introduced, and is fast tracking, legislation to make it easier to tackle the problem - the Control of Horses (Wales) Bill. At the moment, any action which can be taken needs ownership to be proved. During the debate, which the BBC streamed live, we heard how owners evade this. Even if ownership is proved, and the culprits are banned from keeping horses, they transfer ownership elsewhere within the family. Some owners have been banned, but blithely ignore this. Julian Sturdy, Conservative MP for York Outer described a case where a farmer in Osbaldwick had, in a 48 hour period, removed horses fly grazing in one of his fields and mended the fences nine times. During this period, he had been abused and intimidated by the horses' owner, who was banned from keeping horses.

Huw Irranca Davies, Labour MP for Ogmore, reported that the RSPCA have concerns that the family of Tom (Tony) Price, the horse dealer who owned over 2,000 horses, and who was convicted of 57 offences of causing animal suffering, have already been moving horses into England in anticipation of the tightening of Welsh legislation.

If owners are prepared to flout the law, with little danger of prosecution, or to evade it, what is the point, as the Government proposes to do, on relying on a set of laws which they admit rely on ownership of horses being proved before action can be taken?

George Eustice, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, listed the existing pieces of legislation that could be used, and the imminent Acts that could help, but admitted that using all of these depended on ownership being proved. As had already been mentioned in the debate, it is this very fact that allows rogue owners to dance around the law, because they simply deny ownership, or transfer it elsewhere.

The Government spokesman was also was concerned that the proposed Welsh legislation would increase the financial and time burdens on local councils as they dealt with fly grazing and welfare issues.

Surely, if fly grazing is dealt with in a manner which deters it happening again, it is more cost effective than the current persistent, and mostly unsuccessful use of resources which provide only temporary relief for the problem. Alun Cairns, MP for the Vale of Glamorgan had statistics: in his area, one of those which suffer most from fly grazing, there were 1,500 horse-related incidents in the last 13 months alone, which had cost £1.2 million to deal with. In one example, a comprehensive school had to spend £61,000 on a fence to stop horses from being grazed on the school playing fields. If the fences are broken down by those who fly graze, the school will have to find the money again.

The Government's stance seems short-sighted at best, and likely to prolong equine suffering at worst.

Left on the Verge, a report produced by equine welfare charities, including World Horse Welfare, Redwings and the RSPCA, has a wide ranging set of proposals aimed at tackling fly grazing, and welfare concerns caused by indiscriminate breeding:

  • Criminal legislation - make fly grazing a crime
  • Have a better link between horses and their owners so ownership can be proved
  • Education - stop indiscriminate breeding
  • Help landowners resolve fly grazing quickly, amending legislation to allow authorities to seize and assume ownership rather than using the current lengthy abandonment process
  • Work with the traveller community (who are the main proponents, though  not the only ones, of fly grazing) to share best practice
  • Improve enforcement
  • Give more assistance to local authorities
  • Educate the public not to breed indiscriminately
  • Produce guidance notes for landowners to explain what to do if they experience fly grazing

In what I heard during the debate, I did not hear any evidence that the Government is prepared to take any new course of action, but proposes to rely on existing and proposed anti social behaviour legislation. We can only hope it is as successful as the Government hopes.

Read the full transcript of the debate

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Children and Ponies in World War II

I've been doing a lot of research recently into the lot of the domestic rider in World War II. There is a long term point to this, as I'm writing a story about it, but all that lovely research gives me an almost endless parade of excuses for not writing the story (16k so far, in case you're wondering) because I really need to know facts for this. And there are endless things I can find out to add local colour.

I have a virtually complete run of Riding Magazine from its start in 1936 up until the early 1960s, and it is fascinating to read them from the point of view of someone who was born well after the events they describe. I have the benefit of knowing that, despite the editor's fervent hopes, war would not come to an end early in 1940, or the next year, or for some years after. I knew rationing was on the way; that finding horses fodder would be increasingly difficult; that petrol rationing would give the driving pony a boost.

What is really interesting is seeing how the children who read Riding Magazine experienced the war. As far as I'm aware, these magazines offer pretty much the only expression of how the pony loving child experienced riding and pony-owning during the war. There were no dedicated children's horse or pony magazines in the 1930s. All the pony loving child had was the children's section in Riding Magazine. It certainly met a need. Virtually every letter has its child author commending the editor on publishing the magazine, and telling him how much they enjoyed it, and how much they looked forward to it every month. It's tempting to speculate on what happened to the critical letters. Perhaps they simply didn't appear. Perhaps the children flung in soft soap in an effort to get published.

The children's section hit a successful formula pretty much straight off, and stuck with it. Each month there was a story - Golden Gorse's The Young Horsebreakers, with illustrations by Anne Bullen,was serialised in the magazine before its publication. There were monthly competitions, one of which a young Diana Pullein-Thompson won. Her task had been to write a commentary on any article in Riding Magazine. She won, but her piece was never given the promised publication. It had demolished, quite thoroughly, one of the horsey experts of the day, and the editorial team perhaps felt it politic to suppress the criticism.

Owl's Castle Farm, Primrose Cumming, 1942

A regular, and hugely popular feature of the children's section, was the Children's Letter Box. It is one of those things you need to be passionately pony-mad to get anything out of. There's not a great deal of variation in the letters in the early days. Almost every letter is from a child writing in about its pony, or ponies, or the pony they ride at riding school, occasionally accompanied by a photograph.

War was declared in September 1939, and is mentioned in the main editorial of the adult section, with the pious hope that horses will continue to provide much needed relief from stress for those in the armed forces. It goes un-noticed in the Children's Letter Box. Child after child continues to write in. In the Letter Box of December 1939, June Wildes (age 9) of Vermont has a pony called Misty, and rides on the dirt roads of Vermont. 14 year old Peggy Roberts' uncle has lent her his black pony Trixie. Even Peggy's eyes of love can't make the photographed Trixie, with her slab head and thick neck, appear attractive. The photograph "does not show her off at all well, she looks a lot better really."  There is an Exmoor pony called Ladybird, who climbs up the steps to the house for her titbit, and Clean Sweep, who's been shipped out to his owner in Bombay, clearing a fence at the open jumping.

The correspondents appear a solid cross section of middle England and the Empire, but one of the longest letters, from 15 year old Jean Wyndham, is from a child who can't ride, and who spends her holidays at different holiday homes because her parents are abroad, but who seems remarkably cheerful despite it all. One of her holiday homes sounds tantalising: they kept horses, but Jean couldn't afford to ride them. Jean makes up for her lack of riding with sharp observation. Here she is talking about a pony called Memories:
"It was the most amazing whinny I have ever heard. It started with astonishment and hurt feelings, it went on to indignation and disappointment, then to rage and jealousy, and ended with a mix-up of the whole lot!"
By October 1939, Poland had surrendered to the Germans, and British troops were in France. By December, u-boats had mined the Thames estuary, and the Soviets had invaded Finland. Meat rationing had begun in Britain, but British children seem to be carrying on their equine life pretty much as normal. Lady Hickman, District Commissioner of the Albrighton Hunt branch of the Pony Club, wrote at the end of 1939 that children below the age of fifteen should be spared the realities of war, and the children of the New Forest Hunts Branch of the Pony Club certainly seemed to think so. They were a tough lot, those thirties children. They held a mock hunt on December 28, 1939. It snowed, and by the time the riders reached Wilverley Corner, all traces of the trail were covered by snow. However, the 28 members who turned up “seemed to enjoy the novelty of hunting in a snow storm, and anyhow had something to talk about when they got home.” Major P P Curtis provided hot drinks and eats at his house in Burley “much appreciated by those who had to ride as much as 10 miles home in the snow.”

The letters page continued to reflect a life lived as normal. The first hint of change came from a letter surely written by the child's mother. It is nominally from Colin Lewis, aged 4, of London SW3, and appeared in the January 1940 edition. Colin may well of course have been as fluent a correspondent as his letter suggests, but I've written this sort of letter for my infants. I know the form (I've even done it for the dog). It's surely Colin's Mummie's view of the war that's being shown here, with the desperate gloss being put on Colin's imminent evacuation:

"Now the war is here, I am going away to a boarding school in the West, but Mummie has packed all my RIDING books for company, as they are such nice friends to me, and she is going to send it to me every month."

It's a heart-wrenching letter, because little Colin at the time of writing probably had no idea of the reality of what was about to happen to him, and the company of Riding magazines was going to be a pretty poor substitute for his Mummie. Poor Mummie too, sending her very young child off, with the promise of ponies in magazines to keep him company.

The rest of the letters in the January edition, and almost all of them in the February edition, show children who were carrying on as before. There is one glaring exception. Laure De Noailles, fifteen at the time, and daughter of Marie-Laure de Noaille, whom Wikipedia describes as "one of the 20th century's most daring and influential patrons of the arts" lived at Fontainbleu. France, like Britain, had a programme through which the Army bought up horses for use during the war. Laure sent in a photograph of her grey mare, Panda.
"She was grey, five years old, and with a lovely action. Unfortunately, she and my father’s hunter were taken last month by the army. My polo pony, Flora, and skewbald pony, Herlequine, were too small for the army, also my sister’s little pony, so we luckily still have them.
Laure ended her letter with the obligatory compliments to Riding.  Laure, and her parents and sister, survived the war. Whether Panda, the hunter, Flora, Herlequine and her sister's little pony did, I doubt. 

Photographs: I'd love to illustrate this with photographs from the magazine, but copyright laws prohibit it, as the taker of the photographs is known. I've put in a war-time pony story instead.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Review: Jane Smiley - Champion Horse

Champion Horse is the fourth in the Abby Lovitt series, set in 1960s America. Abby’s father buys horses, and sells them after Abby’s schooled them. Abby herself has changed her view of this over the series. It’s been difficult for her, falling for horses who are then sold, but she does now have her own horse.

I’ve enjoyed the other books in the series; mainly for their unhurried pace and their careful portraits of the horses Abby rides. This book I found much more of a slow burn. Abby is a remote character, an observer rather than one who instigates anything, and for the first half of this book she’s observing to such an extent she rather lost me. I longed for the book to if not catch fire, at least to do something that would encourage me to enter Abby’s world because I cared about her and what she was doing. Fortunately, half way through, things pick up.

The book opens with Abby riding her horse, Blue, in shows, and it is not going well at all. Abby takes Blue to a clinic run by an ex-Olympian, and that doesn’t go well either. The trainer suggests Abby gives Blue a hit with the stick to focus his mind, but as Blue’s already nervous, that tactic doesn’t work. The trainer’s tactics are no better suited to the human participants either: star rider Sophia, who bought Black George from Abby earlier in the series, is reduced to tears, and walks out. She doesn’t get back on again, and Abby is offered the ride on Sophia’s other horse, Pie in the Sky.

Abby gets on well with him, but feels that he could be even better if he’s encouraged to free jump and play, as she’s seen a family called the Carmichaels do. The description of exactly how this all takes place is involving, and as Abby’s interest levels raised, so did mine. Abby is still very much the passive person she always was, but this book does see her start to make her own decisions and drive the plot along. It’s difficult to write a passive character and make the reader care about what happens to her; but the resolution of Abby’s problems sets the next book up with new relationships for Abby, and also the prospect of tension and grief if her brother Danny’s drafted for Vietnam.

There’s still enough in this book to make me look forward to the next volume, but I’m hoping that Abby carries on at least being semi-engaged with the world around her. It would be a shame if this series withered through the reader failing to care enough to reach out and make the effort to enter Abby’s world.

~  0  ~

Jane Smiley – Champion Horse
Faber, 2013, £6.99
Orginally published as Pie in the Sky, Alfred Knopf, 2012
Age of main character: 13/14

Jane Smiley’s website
Jane Smiley on my website

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Review: Sheena Wilkinson - Too Many Ponies

Sheena Wilkinson's novels Taking Flight and Grounded are both aimed at the Young Adult market, so don't pick Too Many Ponies up thinking it's the same. Although the book features characters from the previous books, Declan and Seaneen are now grown up, married, and have two children, Aidan and Kitty. The family have a farm (Rosevale) for abused and rescued horses, which is run on a financial shoestring. Aidan's just starting secondary school, and the book's aimed at children of around that age.

Aidan's not the only one starting secondary school: his good friend Lucy, who keeps her pony at Rosevale, is starting too. The author has a canny eye for what life as an eleven year old is like: an age when the comfortable life of primary school vanishes, and you're thrust into the maelstrom of senior school and fight to stay afloat, or not. Lucy floats; Aidan doesn't. Lucy unwittingly thrusts Aidan into the path of the class bullies, who view ponies as something pink and girly, and taunt Aidan unmercifully because he likes ponies. Aidan proves to have few resources to draw on to defeat the bullies, and life gets more and more miserable for him. Lucy, on the other hand, is seduced by the cool girls at school, who also have ponies, but who do things in a very different way to Rosevale. At Sunnyside stables, the colour co-ordinated pony is all: rugs, numnah, bandages: everything must match.

A much more direct rivalry rears its head when both stables enter for a cross country competition with a prize of £5,000: a frill for Sunnyside, but a new roof for the foal barn for Rosevale. Lucy is mad keen to compete. She's an enthusiastic, gutsy rider: Aidan, although a sympathetic rider, is terrified of jumping. Their strengths, and their weaknesses, get in the way of both of them, and how this works out is balanced well against school, competition and a thoroughly authentic horsey background.

In her earlier books, Sheena Wilkinson drew excellent male characters, and she's carried on with this one. Aidan is that alas still rare creature in pony books, the boy who rides. As Aidan himself observes, it's not surprising that the boys at school have such a negative view of horses and riding: the colour-coordinated approach of horse as dressing doll is alien to boys. There's an interesting discussion to be had on whether there should be, in the interests of equality, a bit of self-censorship on the pony dressing front. This book isn't the place to have it, but it's interesting to see it's the strength and expertise Aidan shows with the ponies that convince Aidan's tormentors to leave him alone. Perhaps there's an argument for not obscuring what really matters with horses with tinsel and tatt. Perhaps there's an argument for saying that the bling approach is sexist and excludes more people than it includes.

It is this approach, after all, which is the cause of some of Aidan's problems.

In a book which takes a good hard look at the difficulty of boys engaging in what has become a feminised and exclusive world, and which looks at how hard it is to be different to the norm and to be included, there are some slightly off notes.

It's a pity Seaneen doesn't get much of a look in in this book, having been a central figure in the previous two. Perhaps it's because in this book she's no longer a focus of dramatic tension, no longer the love interest or pregnant teenager, now she's a mother, she's unfortunately locked away from the important stuff of the book - the horses. Alas mothers in pony books can often be cyphers. Patricia Leitch's pony books feature mothers who are all oddly distant and barely sketched in. It leaves the impression that it's difficult to do the housework, have children, and attend to horses. That's left to men and children. It doesn't have to be so: look at the fine parents K M Peyton writes: Mr and Mrs Hollis, and the unforgettable Mrs Meredith (Fly-by-Night et al).

That is a minor quibble though, in a book that is a fine read. The characters are lively, brilliantly drawn, and the plot, although a standard pony competition affair, is handled so that the competition is not the whole point of the book. Sheena Wilkinson's done what the best pony writers do: keep her human characters at the absolute centre of her book.

~  0  ~

Sheena Wilkinson - Too Many Ponies
Little Island, 2013, £4.99
Age of main characters: 11/12

Sheena Wilkinson on my website

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Review: Jill Hucklesby – Samphire Song

Jill Hucklesby’s Samphire Song deals with grief and illness, and combines them with the conventional girl gets horse only she can ride plot. Heroine Jodie’s father, a pilot, died in a flying accident, leaving her, her mother, and her ten year old brother, Ed. The grief and gap left by Jodie’s father’s death is not the only thing they have to contend with: Ed has kidney disease, and has to have dialysis several times a week. Life is too much for Jodie, but she’s helped by looking after a horse called Rambo, who provides an escape for her as she tries to get through her days. Jodie’s dreams of horse owning come true when her writer mother gets a regular post on a gardening magazine, meaning Jodie will be able to have her first horse.

The fact this book is called Samphire Song does rather ruin the plot of the getting-the-horse section, as from the moment Samphire appears, you know that’s who Jodie’s going to end up with, not any other horse described in this section. Samphire of course is not any horse: he’s a part Arab grey stallion, and he’s three: he’s been mistreated and refuses to interact with anyone, except Jodie.  This book does fulfil, in spades the horse that only I could ride theme. Jodie does buy Samphire, and after a bit of oofing, manages to ride him, and plans to enter him in a cross country race. Then everything goes wrong as Ed becomes seriously ill, and needs a kidney transplant; Jodie’s mother loses her gardening column, and Jodie sells Samphire to raise the money to keep the family going. The rest of the story deals with the fall out from this decision.

On a human level, I enjoyed this book. The author deals with the difficult themes of grief, death and life-threatening illness well. Jodie is an engaging character, and little brother Edward is beautifully written.

Where I did struggle was with the horsey elements. There are some fairly major inaccuracies:

- a novice buys a stallion, who is taken on at the stables she works at without a second thought, and with no thought given to managing a stallion on a yard with plenty of other horses. Fortunately for the book, Samphire seems not to have heard of mares.

- the horse is three. Leaving aside the fact that it is, unfortunately, perfectly possible to buy a horse who’s been broken and ridden often at the age of three, if you buy a horse like that you shouldn’t just continue riding it, let alone plan to ride it in a strenuous race. The horse needs turning away so his young bones can grow without strain.

- the end stages of the cross country race are distinctly peculiar. With 100 metres to go, there are two fences in that distance, and once the last fence is cleared, the horse in front of Samphire is described as being 5 seconds ahead, which means by my calculations he’d be long over the finishing line, and not still have time for an exciting and drawn out finish.

Unfortunately the inaccuracies (and there are more) killed the book for me. I really can’t recommend it as a horsey read, because of them.  If you look at this book purely from the point of view of the characters, then it is a good read. Jill Hucklesby is particularly good on the inter-action between brother and sister. The strong affection between them, and the teasing and occasional irritation, is beautifully done. If you can grit your teeth and get past the equine inaccuracies, then this is a decent study of the effects of grief and illness.

~  0  ~ 

Jill Hucklesby: Samphire Song
Egmont, 2011 (USA 2013), £5.99 (easily available secondhand)
Kindle: £2.87, Kobo £3.95
Age of main character: 13/14
Themes: death, grief, life-threatening illness

Jill Hucklesby on my website

Friday, 6 September 2013

Amazon, the OFT, and Price Parity

Until very recently, sellers on Amazon weren’t allowed to sell any item they had listed on Amazon for less elsewhere.  Many booksellers have their own sites. It costs much less to sell a book from your own site as you aren’t paying Amazon either their monthly fee, or the 17.25% they take from every sale, and the cut they take of the postage. It makes good economic sense for you as a small business to encourage people to your site with costs that undercut Amazon’s, but under Amazon’s price parity policy, you couldn’t do this.

There was an outcry about this back in 2010, and a complaint was made to the OFT. One of the booksellers who complained was contacted by the OFT on 4th June 2010 via email (which I’ve seen, as I have the rest of the emails mentioned in this piece). The bookseller was asked if they’d be available to answer some questions, as the OFT gathered information on Amazon.

The interview happened. Not a lot else did, so the bookseller wrote to the OFT on 10th August 2010, and asked if there was any news, as they were still waiting to see whether or not to re-price all their books, in accordance with Amazon’s policy, or whether the new rule would be overturned by the OFT. Christmas came and went, with no answer. By January 2011, it was no longer the original OFT contact’s problem: they’d moved on. Remarking in a reply to the patient bookseller that it was unusual for informal enquiries to take as long as this did, the bookseller was told they’d be contacted.

Years went by. In March of this year (2013) the OFT were again in touch with the bookseller, with a reply which is a masterpiece in obfuscation. After several reads I’m still not entirely clear what they wanted to say: the one thing that is clear is that not much has changed since 2010. The bookseller was told that the OFT had only recently been able to examine the issues raised. What was it, I wonder, that bumped Amazon up the OFT’s Prioritisation Principles after years? Could it have anything to do with Amazon’s unpopularity late in 2012 as a UK tax avoider?

In August 2013, things at last moved on. It should be noted at this point that the OFT still has not commented on the policy, but Amazon have backed down. Here’s what the OFT sent to those who complained back in 2010:

You have previously contacted the Office of Fair Trading (‘OFT’) to raise concerns about Amazon’s price parity policy in its agreements with third party sellers trading on the Marketplace online retail platform.

You may already be aware that the OFT launched a formal investigation into this policy in October 2012, under Chapter I of the Competition Act 1998 and Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. The webpage for this investigation can be found here.
Amazon has informed the OFT of its decision to end its price parity policy across its Marketplace in the European Union effective from 30 August 2013. As a result, the OFT is minded to close its investigation on the grounds that it is no longer an administrative priority. Further details can be found in the OFT’s press release available here.

The OFT welcomes confirmation from you, as a third party seller trading on Marketplace, that Amazon has notified you of its decision to stop enforcing its price parity policy and remove the relevant clauses subsequently from your agreement.     

If the OFT was originally contacted in 2010, why did it take it two years to launch a formal investigation, despite its protestations of action in 2010?

What was the effect on booksellers? One wrote to me:

"I think the key thing is that this policy stopped sellers having a sale or a special offer which improves cash flow, and cash flow, as we know, is what keeps a business viable. The OFT have taken 3 years and 5 months before Amazon have backed down and also have STILL passed no opinion. Small businesses and consumers have been at the mercy of this policy for all that time. They still are because there has been so little prominence given to the change in rules that the rules might as well still be in place."

Booksellers have, as yet, no email from Amazon alerting them to the changes. The seller contract has been changed, but the notification was:

“Just a plain link to changes in participation agreement in sellers home ‘headlines’ – they often tweak this and not everyone will read it all the time.

For any bookseller not yet aware, here’s the agreement with the changes:

You will notice that I don’t give the names of any booksellers in this piece.  As with the previous times I’ve written about Amazon, booksellers do not want to infuriate the company that provides them with their bread and butter. Of the sellers I spoke to, Amazon make up 33-50% of their income; more when sales from ABE, which Amazon also own, were included.

It’s good that Amazon have backed down on price parity. It’s good that they can be made to, when the OFT acts. Let’s hope that, as Amazon acquires ever more book-related businesses (Goodreads is the latest) that the OFT keeps a firm eye on them.

~  0  ~

Here’s a list of Amazon’s bookish businesses, according to Wikipedia:

Book Depository, UK online book retailer, which became Amazon UK in 1998
BookSurge, print-on- demand
Brilliance Audio, largest independent publisher of audiobooks in the United States, on-demand books, CDs, and DVDs.
GoodReads, eBook software company
Shelfari (including a 40% stake in LibraryThing and whole ownership of,, and FillZ);