Ferguson, Ruby

Ruby Ferguson (1899–1966) wrote the Jill books, which have remained in print longer than any other pony series, only going out of print for a brief period in the first years of this century, when they were picked up by Fidra, who have republished most of the series.

Although the first Jill book appeared in 1949, they are still popular today, because Jill herself is such a wonderfully vivid character. Ruby Ferguson observed children, and particularly horsy children, brilliantly. The Jill sitting in a beautiful dream oblivious to all as she jumps round Harringay in her mind, or sending the coffee pot flying by resting a letter on it; or dreading the visit of her much cleaner, much better behaved Cousin Cecilia, is entirely believable.

The Books
There are nine Jill books. Each title has its own page on this site, with a synopsis and pictures of as many different versions as I have been able to find or borrow. There is sometimes some confusion about exactly how many Jill titles there were: two were re-titled by Knight in the 1980s, when Jill Enjoys Her Ponies became Jill and the Runaway, and Pony Jobs for Jill became Challenges for Jill. The books are still the same underneath the title change. This is the series, in the original publication and reading order:

The Jill Series
Jill’s Gymkhana, 1949
A Stable for Jill, 1951
Jill Has Two Ponies, 1952
Jill Enjoys Her Ponies, 1954 (Jill & The Runaway)
Jill’s Riding Club, 1956
Rosettes for Jill, 1957
Jill and the Perfect Pony, 1959
Pony Jobs for Jill, 1960 (Challenges for Jill)
Jill’s Pony Trek, 1962

As well as a page for each individual title, there are pages for each different edition. The pages for the individual titles include a short synopsis, a note on abridgements, and photographs of the different editions for that title. I’ve added in some Jill articles as well, and there are now pages on some of Jill’s illustrators, as well as pages detailing the full list of abridgements Knight made. [Note - these aren't yet available on the new version of my site, but they will be].

You will see that I don’t have photographs of absolutely every edition, so if you can help, please feel free to email me.

The Black Boy Question
Yes, Black Boy's name was changed in one reprint, but it was one single, solitary reprint out of over 100. In the Knight 1968 printing of Jill's Gymkhana, Black Boy became Danny Boy. He went back to being Black Boy in the 1968 A Stable for Jill, and has remained Black Boy in every single edition since. As for why the change happened, I do not know. Perhaps it was an early example of political correctness. Perhaps an editor preferred the name Danny Boy. Perhaps it was simply a mistake, corrected in the next title.

Many thanks to Birte Scheel, John Rees, Alison Rushby, Vanessa Robertson, Dawn Harrison, Diane Janes, Kayt, and Claire Noble for providing cover shots I didn’t have; and particular thanks to Hazelhunter and Birte for their sterling work on what’s abridged and where. Thanks to Tracy Goodson for detective work on the USA printing, and to Matilda Lawless and Roy Clarke for cover shots.

Links and sources
Alison Haymonds: ‘The Search for Ruby’, Children’s Book History Society, vol 69, April 2001, 7–11
Hilary Clare: Ruby Ferguson, in Folly Magazine, vol 42
Liz Thiel: The Dark Horse: Ruby Ferguson and the Jill Pony Stories, The Lion and the Unicorn 26.1 (2002) 112-122
Jane Badger: Heroines on Horseback (GGB, 2013) has a chapter on Jill: The Beautiful Golden Dream
Wikipedia on Ruby Ferguson
The excellent Persephone Books have reprinted Lady Rose and Mrs Memmary (one of Ruby Ferguson's books for adults) and it is still in print. It is absolutely nothing like the Jill books, and lacks their humour but it is a poignant read. Persephone have a short biography of Ruby Ferguson
Clarissa Cridland: Collecting Pony Books

Jill now has her own Facebook group.
A quiz on the Jill books.