Pony on the Twelfth Floor : Polly Faber, illus. Sarah Jennings

Pony on the Twelfth FloorPony on the Twelfth Floor by Polly Faber

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There’s a lot to love about what Polly Faber does and I, for one, hope she continues to do it. I had, and continue to have, so much time for her work on the Mango and Bambang series ( which I review here), and Pony on the Twelfth Floor is an utter, rich delight. Faber is very quietly producing a canon of classy, rich and rather delicious children’s stories and they all have that classic edge of timelessness about them. They’re rather like a slice of cake that gives you everything you need, and a little bit more besides, and when you’re finished, it’s all good. Everything is good. Frankly, everything is lovely.

This is a pony story steeped in pony stories, and I will always respect those who both know and love their genre. There’s a Sweetbriar reference (!) alongside several deliciously knowing references, and really, that was enough to have me fall in love with this book. But it’s not just about jokes, and Faber knows that for this book is underpinned by heart. Kizzy wants a pony in that desperate, endless way you do when you are a certain type of person of a certain type of age. (And note, how I do not specify that age because I think it is an ageless sort of love.). But because she lives in a twelfth floor flat, in the middle of a very urban environment, it seems as if she won’t get one. That is until she sees one munching on flapjacks in the supermarket.

And that’s how it begins; a twist of circumstance, a love of the most fierce kind, and this book roars from that point onwards. Kizzy is true and real and lovingly drawn; she’s the child who used to comb the ‘win a pony’ competitions (not, says I, that I did or anything) and the child who practices cantering down the street. And none of this is rendered as something to laugh at, or something to be embarrassed by, because it’s right. There’s nothing wrong with love and faith and believing that one day the world might conspire to give you your hearts desire.

Another thing to note is the illustrations done by Sarah Jennings, because they’re lovely. They’re just the right side of Thelwell, and full of a delicious sense of humour in every line. Flapjack is distinct, and lovely, and it’s hard to not fall in love with him because you get it. You get it. Look, I know I’m burbling, but honestly I don’t care. I like this book. I love it. It’s so rich and so honest and so heartfelt, and it’s utterly well done. What a time, what a world.

My thanks to the publisher for a copy.

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Mango and Bambang : Polly Faber & Clara Vulliamy

Mango & Bambang: The Not-a-Pig (Mango & Bambang, #1)Mango & Bambang: The Not-a-Pig by Polly Faber

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’ve never been the timeliest of book bloggers.

A part of that stems from the books that I love; those richly layered books that speak of a classical sensibility and timeless potency, and those books about girls at boarding schools in Austria. I read books from 1901 alongside those from 2015, and I love to find the dialogues between them. The ties of literature. The golden ties of British children’s literature. The building blocks of our national literary voice.

I heard about Mango and Bambang a long time ago and I was thrilled. Intensely, madly, because I was lucky enough to know both Polly Faber and Clara Vulliamy online and I was, and am, a fan of their work. Vulliamy’s work is something I have blogged about before, for her art is nuanced and clever, subtle and generous, a frank delight in every page. Rich, too, with the layered detail present in them, and that clever, clever eye towards the reader. Always. A consciousness of the view and artwork that revels in such. I love her work, truly. In Mango and Bambang, Vulliamy illustrates four deliciously sized stories from Polly Faber, a blogger who I’ve similarly admired for a while. Faber’s generous and lovely and rich writing is a delight.

And so, to this book, which I was both gleeful over and mildly terrified, because I wondered in that British way of always seeing the best in things : what if I didn’t like it?

But I did.

Oh reader, how I did. How to begin to describe this package of utter loveliness, of a charming and warmly detailed friendship between a lonely girl and a tapir? Mango and Bambang is ferociously eccentric, rather brilliantly so, but through that eccentricity carves itself a space that makes me think of E Nesbit and Dodie Smith, and I love that. I love that little tingle on the back of my spine that makes me think of golden age authors, because then I know that I like this book. I like it a lot.

I like the honesty of Faber’s writing; the sympathetic, warm, honesty of it. The introduction of Mango, talks about her being busy because “being busy was important, living in a very busy city, full of other busy people being good at things / Because otherwise Mango might have been a little bit lonely”. Listen to that. Say it out loud. Books live in the mind but they also live in the voice, in that little stuttering sliding truth at the end of that quote. Truth says itself, and oh Faber gets that. She also gets the rich delicious humour at the heart of any friendship between a girl and a tapir: “Mango and Bambang hid, not terribly successfully, behind a lamppost”

The dialogue between text and image is wonderful; exuberant in some points, where Mango barks orders at the frenetic cityscape, and poignant at others, intensely so, when Mango stands in spotlighted isolation and the words are almost pushed off page because there isn’t enough space for them: “She looked / smaller than / usual on / her own / under the / lights.” It’s small stuff, but God, it’s clever.

I suspect I’m burbling. I would burble more if I gave you this review in person. If I did, I’d pull your attention to the moment where Bambang wears Mango’s spare swimming hut and show you potentially the most beautiful and loving sketch of a proud, slightly self-conscious but very much loving his life, tapir. Possibly the only example of such in existence, but when it’s this good, why seek for competition?

I’ve never been the timeliest of book bloggers. I heard about Mango and Bambang a long time ago, and I loved it then, and I think I might marry it now.

This book is good. So, so, utterly perfectly so. It’s golden.

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