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Sheila Chapman was born in 1942. She grew up in Somerset, doing Pony Club (the Blackmore Vale) and gymkhanas and breaking and training young ponies at a local riding school. She had her first pony (shared with her older sister) at the age of 7. She was obviously something of a live wire: besides being a published author while she was still at school, she also hunted, competed, and taught at the junior Pony Club. Her father was a gifted sculptor, and Sheila inherited his artistic gifts. She went to art college, and then trained as a teacher. She taught special needs children, and her next books, under the name Sheila Haigh, were inspired by them.
Her first book, A Pony and His Partner, was published at the age of 16. She started writing A Pony and His Partner at the age of 13; tore it up and then re-wrote it. It was published some years later, but was actually ready for publication when she was only 15. She wrote three further books as Sheila Chapman, one of which, The Mystery Pony, is a sequel to A Pony and His Partner. Under the name Sheila Haigh she wrote eight children’s books for Methuen and Blackie, including The Little Gymnast. During the 1970s she became a full time writer and artist, and held solo exhibitions. Her son was born in the 1980s, a time she found ”enriching and inspiring for me as I still wanted to write for children.”
She is still writing, and under her married name, Sheila Jefferies, is working on several new books, on which you can find more information here.
Finding the books
The paperbacks do turn up, but Burke’s paperback series are not robust, and survivors tend to be in poor condition. The hardbacks are hard to find but not impossible, and the trilogy is usually fairly easy to find. The one exception to this is Ride for Freedom, which is very hard to find. All the stories were republished in German, and are easy to find, so if you can read German that might be a way of filling in any gaps in your collection!
Links and sources
Correspondence with Sheila Chapman
Sheila’s website for her new books
Thank you to Amanda Dolby and John Rees for their help with this section.