If you want an intelligent book with an element of horse (or an intelligent book without them), Linda Newbery’s books are a good place to go. Her The Damage Done and The Nowhere Girl are both excellent reads. The horses are by no means the main point of the stories: they are both full of wonderfully realised people and plotlines, and take you into an intensely realised world you will resent being removed from.
Linda is by no means a horse story author: her books cover a wide range of subjects, and ages, and have been almost universally well received. She is a Carnegie Medal nominee for The Shell House, Sisterland, and At the Firefly Gate, a silver medal winner of the Nestlé Children's Book Prize for Catcall, and the Costa Children’s Book winner of 2006 for Set in Stone.
She was born in 1952 in Essex, and started writing when young. Her bedroom wardrobe was the main beneficiary:
'... I was always writing, but usually very secretively in my bedroom. I was forever starting stories and then leaving them because I didn't know how to get past Chapter 3. At one time there must have been a lot of Chapters 1, 2 and 3 in my wardrobe.'
She was an avid reader of the pony book:
'I devoured the Pullein-Thompsons, Ruby Ferguson and anything else I could get my hands on. But the one who really made me want to be a writer was Monica Edwards – I read all of her 40-something books. Not really a pony-book writer once she'd left Wish For a Pony behind – but wonderful at evoking place and atmosphere, and I loved her characters and settings. Later I became a great admirer of the wonderful K M Peyton, but I didn't discover her until I reached my early twenties. She is now my friend – and you will see that The Damage Done is dedicated to her.'
Through what she describes as 'a piece of colossal cheek', she met Monica:
'Returning from a Sussex holiday, I made my parents take me to Punchbowl Farm, overruling their protests that it was just a place in a story. I marched up to the kitchen door and was astonished when Monica Edwards herself opened it. She didn’t mind us arriving on her doorstep. She spent two or more hours with us, inviting us into that kitchen, taking us down to the woods, showing us the badger setts. She was the first author I’d met, and I couldn’t believe that she was so ordinary and so friendly.'
That formative experience has led to Linda writing over 40 books.
Finding the books
Easily available. The Damage Done is available as an e-book.
Links and sources
xxxxxLinda Newbery on Monica Edwardsxxxxx
Linda Newbery interviews K M Peyton
Linda Newbery’s website
Linda Newbery on Wordpool
Linda Newbery on the inspiration behind her book Lob
Correspondence with the author
Bibliography: pony books only
The Marmalade Pony, Hippo, London, 1994, illus Susan Hellard, 80 pp.
The Nowhere Girl, Adlib, London, 1997, 191 pp.
Scholastic, 1999, cover Anne Magill, 191 pp.
Star's turn, Corgi, London, 1999, illus Peter Bailey, 64 pp.
The Damage Done, Scholastic Press, London, 2001, pb, cover Anne Magill. 258 pp.
Kindle edition, 2011
Barney the Boat Dog - Runaway Horse, Usborne Books, London, 2011, pb