Dame Catherine Cookson DBE (1906-1998) was best known for her romantic and historical
novels set in her native North East, the enormous popularity of which enabled her
to stay at the top of the library lending lists even after her death.
Catherine Cookson did not have the conventional background of so many writers featured
on this website of a solid education followed by university: the child of an alcoholic
mother, and raised by her grandparents, she left school at 13, and went into service.
In 1929 she travelled south to Hastings to work in the laundry service in the Work
House there. After determined saving, she managed to buy a house which she ran as
a lodgings. She married in 1934, but after several miscarriages, had a breakdown.
She started to write to try and recover from her depression, and published her first
novel, Kate Hannigan, in 1950. She went on to write over 100 books, including 11
for children, some of which featured animals. Two of her books, Joe and the Gladiator,
and The Nipper, again set in her beloved North East, feature horses and ponies. Joe
and the Gladiator was made into a television series by the BBC. She also wrote the
Hamilton series for adults, which featured an imaginary horse.
Finding the books: hardback firsts are trickier to find than the paperback reprints,
but are not impossible.
Many thanks to Dawn Harrison for the photograph of The Nipper.
Bibliography - pony books only
Joe and the Gladiator
Macdonald, London, 1968, illus Gillian Shanks. 155 pp.
Reprinted Macmillan, London 1978
Puffin, pb, 1971 - cover, still from TV series, 155 pp. (left)
Puffin, pb, 1980, cover Martin Reiner, 155 pp. (right)
“Life was not always easy for Joe in his Tyneside home, but suddenly everything changed when
he met Mr Prodhurst, the rag-and-bone man, and got to know his gaunt, ilntellligent
old horse, the Gladiator.”
The Nipper Macdonald & Co, 1970, illus Tessa Jordan, 166 pp.
Bobbs Merrill, Indianapolis, 1970, illus Tessa Jordan, 171 pp. Puffin, pb, 1973. Cover
David Carl Forbes, illus Tessa Jordan
Corgi, pb, 1984, 189 pp.
Set in the early 1800s in North East England, this is the story of a boy’s love for
a runt pony.
The boy’s world collapses when he starts working in the mines.