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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Ruby, ruby, ruby, ruby (aaahaaahaahaahahhh)

I have rediscovered my love for Ruby Ferguson after I picked up a copy of this at a local library ‘chuck out all the books we forgot we had’ sale.

And oh it’s ace. Jill’s Riding Club. Written in a time when all you needed was a pony (or two) and a will to ride because It Was The Best Thing In The History Of Ever and Horses Are Creatures Of Intense Nobility.

Jill’s a splendid creation. She’s sort of spiffing, and sensible, and splendid and SHE HAS TWO PONIES *cue instant childhood jealousy and loathing glares at my little ponies*

I went through the horsey phase like practically every other girl I knew. Horses were brilliant. Horses were my crush. I wrote down the names of the ones that we passed on the school bus. I noted who was out in the field one day, and who was out the next. I had a cottage on the way to Scarborough that I had marked out as the one where Jill lived and Black Boy and Rapide would graze in the orchard behind it.  I had an imaginary cadre of animals who came on car trips on me – White Horse, White Rabbit (and, I’ll be dead impressed if you can spot the theme here), White Dog. I used to hold my breath and imagine myself leaping over the white lines, my faithful steed turning to the lightest touch of my reins.

In a way, horse novels were my romance novels. I never did Mills and Boon or even really the feverish “Pssst, look at page thirty three of Jilly Cooper’s latest” thing.  But what I did do was weep when Baringa met Dawn, when Toadhill Flax was rescued by Ruth, when Misty had Storm. Horse novels are a way for the young reader to experience their first loves. The highs and the god-awful lows. The moment when death, so inevitable, so bitterly unlooked for, comes. It breaks your heart. But then it rebuilds it. Because through loving another – be that boy, girl, horse, dog, cat, it teaches you the value of it and the act of love is often so wonderful that you can hold onto that for ever.

I’m being pulled back to reading these books; being pulled back by a well-oiled leading rein and I don’t want to let go. I want the Silver Brumby. I want more Jill and Jackie and Jinny (in the interests of equality, there are other protagonists who don’t start with J). I want the Pat Smythe books and I want them now.