Enid Blyton (1897-1968)

Iconic and hugely prolific children's author. Born in London in 1897. She studied to be a kindergarten teacher, at the same time submitting material to various magazines. Her first book was published in 1922, a book of poems called Child Whispers. A tremendous number of other books were to follow until her death in 1968. The Famous Five stories were her most popular books and were adapted for TV and radio a number of times.

I will not go into a huge amount of biographical detail here as that side of things has been comprehensively covered by many other sources! I am primarily interested in the fact that she wrote a number of books featuring ponies, some stories in themselves, in others horses were important elements in some of her long-running popular series such as the
Famous Five and Secret Seven series. All these I have listed below. In general, the books were aimed at a younger readership than the mainstream pony book. The stories were either moralistic or adventure orientated rather than focused on the riding side of things. As well as the books mentioned, ponies also appeared in other Famous Five adventures and in some of the circus and farm stories too - but those listed are the most equine-themed.

The author has been criticised for her jingoistic and sexist views and her sometimes lazy, hole-ridden plots, and indeed these faults can be seen in many of her books, but these faults are balanced out by her highly readable writing style, strong family and moral values and exciting fast paced stories. In the end it is probably down to a matter of personal taste whether you will like her books or not.

Six Cousins Series:
Both these stories about three children who have to go and live on a farm after their house burns down, feature quite a lot of pony content. It is interesting that the first book was originally illustrated by Peter Biegel, who of course was well known for his equine book illustrations, almost as if this was a hint that this book was more of a pony novel than a general children's story! They are regarded by many readers as amongst the author's best work, possibly because they concentrate more on every day matters than on unrealistic adventures.

1) SIX COUSINS AT MISTLETOE FARM
(EVANS 1948)
ILLUSTRATED BY PETER BIEGEL
Reprinted a number of times in both hardback and paperback.
EDITIONS PICTURED: Evans hardback reprint, Armada paperback
SUMMARY: Jack, Jane and Susan are horrified when their pampered namby-pamby cousins Melisande, Roderick and Cyril have to stay on their farm when their house burns down. But amongst the animals and the hard-working but caring family, the previously rich and selfish children learn a lot and begin to understand the true values of life.
PONYMAD RATING: 4 HORSESHOES

2) SIX COUSINS AGAIN
(EVANS 1950)
ILLUSTRATED BY MAURICE TULLOCH
Reprinted a number of times in both hardback and paperback.
EDITIONS PICTURED: Evans hardback reprint, Armada paperback
SUMMARY: The children move with their parents to a farm of their own as their father attempts to emulate his brother's way of life. But can the family cope without their down-to-earth relatives to keep them on the straight and narrow? Or will they slip back into their self-centred ways?

Collectors info:
These books were reprinted many times in various editions too numerous to mention. Paperback editions are easy to find in the UK, a little harder in the USA and elsewhere. First editions with jackets are rare, especially the first one in the series.

Books featuring ponies from other series:
Not really pony books as such but the following books from some of the author's most popular series feature quite a lot of pony content within the plots as well as having some nice horsy illustrations by excellent artists.

THIRD YEAR AT MALORY TOWERS
(From the Malory Towers school series)
(METHUEN 1948)
ILLUSTRATED BY STANLEY LLOYD
Reprinted many many times in various hardback and paperback editions.
EDITIONS PICTURED: 1st edition, various paperback editions.
SUMMARY: When horsy Bill (short for Wilhemina) arrives at Malory Towers school she is always getting into trouble from her form teacher Miss Peters for dreaming about horses and not doing her work. But when her horse Thunder is ill she realises that Miss Peters is more of a friend than an enemy.
PONYMAD VIEW: Although primarily a school story the equine theme is fairly strong and quite important to the plot, although horse content is necessarily far less than in a more traditional pony story. The main gripe (apart from the strong jingoistic attitude to Americans - USA readers be warned!) is the assumption that horse mad girls are unfeminine and that it is rather unhealthy to be so obsessed with horses; rather annoying considering Darrrell's obsession with the far more dreary pastime of lacrosse! Possibly not suitable for those who do not like school stories, it's strengths are as a school story rather than a pony story. Lovely illustrations in the earlier hardbacks, including some horsy ones.
PONYMAD RATING: 4 HORSESHOES

FIVE GO TO MYSTERY MOOR
(From the Famous Five series)
(HODDER & STOUGHTON 1954)
ILLUSTRATED BY EILEEN SOPER
Reprinted many many times in various hard and paperback editions.
Made into an episode in both 1970s & 1990s Famous Five TV shows.
EDITIONS PICTURED: 1st edition, paperback edition.
SUMMARY: Whilst staying at a riding stables, the Five meet a young gypsy boy named Sniffer who brings his father's injured horse to the stables to get help. The children then get embroiled in  a mystery involving the gypsies and the mysterious nearby moors.
PONYMAD VIEW: Gaping plot holes and the annoying presence of not one but two girls who want to be boys mar the story, but it's a fairly good adventure romp and the most horsy of all the series. Lovely illustrations by Eilleen Soper in the Hodder & Stoughton editions.
Read a longer review here
PONYMAD RATING: 3 HORSESHOES

THE SECRET SEVEN
(From the Secret Seven series)
(BROCKHAMPTON 1949)
ILLUSTRATED BY GEORGE BROOK
Reprinted many many times in various hard and paperback editions.
EDITIONS PICTURED: 1st edition, Brockhampton hardback reprint, paperback.
SUMMARY: Very slight pony content as the gang of juvenile sleuths solve their first mystery: that of a stolen race horse!
PONYMAD RATING: 3 HORSESHOES

SECRET SEVEN MYSTERY
(From the Secret Seven series)
(BROCKHAMPTON 1957)
ILLUSTRATED BY BURGESS SHARROCKS
Reprinted many many times in various hard and paperback editions.
EDITIONS PICTURED: 1st edition, various paperback editions.
SUMMARY: When a horsy girl goes missing after apparently stealing some money, the gang search the local stables for her and soon find out one of the stable boys is highly suspicious….
PONYMAD RATING: 3 HORSESHOES

FUN FOR THE SECRET SEVEN
aka THE SECRET SEVEN AND THE CASE OF THE OLD HORSE (USA edition)
(From the Secret Seven series)
(BROCKHAMPTON 1963)
ILLUSTRATED BY BURGESS SHARROCKS
Reprinted many many times in various hard and paperback editions.
Published in America in hardback by Childrens Press in 1972 under alternative title.
EDITIONS PICTURED: 1st edition, USA edition, paperback editions
SUMMARY: The Secret Seven help an old man look after his horse Brownie and try to prevent Brownie from being stolen.
PONYMAD RATING: 3 HORSESHOES

Collectors info:
Paperbacks/reading copies are very easy to find in both the UK and USA on Amazon and similar market places, auction sites, car boot sales, etc. They are also all still in print so can be bought new. First editions with jackets are harder to find, with the last two Secret Seven books being the easiest to get hold of and the Malory Towers book the rarest and probably most expensive. It is worth getting the older hardbacks with jackets if you can find them as they are all beautifully illustrated by excellent artists such as Eileen Soper and Stanley Lloyd.

Other Horse & Pony Books:
Both these aimed at a younger readership than the other books.

SNOWBALL THE PONY
(LUTTERWORTH 1953)
ILLUSTRATED BY IRIS GILLESPIE
Reprinted many times in paperback.
EDITIONS PICTURED: 1st edition, paperback reprints
SUMMARY: Pony point of view story. Snowball is a little black Shetland pony foal. As he grows up he doesn't want to leave his mother but when he has to, he learns to become independent, make his own friends and even teach an unpleasant boy a lesson!
PONYMAD VIEW: For younger readers. A moralistic simple tale in which children reading learn various lessons of life along with the sympathetic pony hero. Lot of other animal characters make this a good choice for animal-loving youngsters.
Read a longer review here

PONYMAD RATING: 3 HORSESHOES

PRETTY STAR THE PONY & OTHER STORIES
(AWARD 1989)
ILLUSTRATED BY SALLY GREGORY
Reprinted in paperback.
EDITIONS PICTURED: 1st edition.
SUMMARY: Short stories for younger readers. Only the title story is a pony one, the others are various mainly fantasy type tales of goblins, elves and the like.

Collectors info:
Both fairly easy to find on Amazon and similar market places in the UK, USA, etc. The first edition of Snowball is reasonably rare, although not usually too expensive.