About the author
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 Doneand 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. Her most recent horse story is The Key to Flambards, written with K M Peyton’s permission. Set in the modern day, it’s the story of Grace Russell, who spends the summer at Flambards, her mother’s ancestral home.
Finding the books
Easily available. The Damage Done is available as an e-book.
Links and sources
Linda Newbery on Monica Edwards
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
The Marmalade Pony
Hippo, London, 1994, illus Susan Hellard, 80 pp.
Part of the Young Hippo Magic series, aimed at the younger reader. Hannah has always wanted a pony of her own, but she gets by with pretend ponies. Her birthday is coming up, and when Hannah’s father starts making something mysterious, Hannah has hopes the thing is pony-related.
The Nowhere Girl
Adlib, London, 1997, 191 pp.
Scholastic, 1999, cover Anne Magill, 191 pp.
Read a review of the book here
Half-French Cass is recovering from glandular fever, and the shock of a near-fatal car accident in which her boyfriend was involved. As a holiday job, she goes to stay with her great aunt and uncle, working part time on their stud farm. As well as learning to cope with the horses, starting from a position as absolute beginner, Cass has to come to terms with her feelings for Pascal, and the reality of her family’s involvement in World War II.
Corgi, London, 1999, illus Peter Bailey, 64 pp.
For the younger reader, this is a story about Star, the donkey, who shares a field with a pony called Moon. Moon is always winning prizes, but it never seems to be Star’s turn.
The Damage Done
Scholastic Press, London, 2001, pb, cover Anne Magill. 258 pp.
Kindle edition, 2011
Kirsty is surrounded by the self-obsessed, and she’s trying her level best to keep her brother’s livery business going while he’s in Canada. She is struggling with agoraphobia, and the conflicting emotions and suspicions caused by the appearance of Dally, a skinny boy ostensibly a gardener, but whom Kirsty suspects of being rather more.
Barney the Boat Dog – Runaway Horse
Usborne Books, London, 2011, pb
Read a review of Barney here
This book is in the second in the Barney series, which is about Barney the dog and his owner Jim. They live on a narrowboat, and are on their way to visit Jim’s grandson Freddie to deliver his birthday present. Unfortunately, on the way the boat breaks down, and the only way they can get underway again is to use traditional methods: a horse.
The Key to Flambards
David Fickling Books, Oxford, 2018, 312 pp. Cover Katie Harnett
Grace Russell is spending the summer at Flambards, her mother’s ancestral home. She is recovering from a life-changing accident, and while she’s at Flambards, she meets two very different boys, Jamie and Marcus.