Davis, Lavinia

About the author

Lavinia Riker Davis (1909–61) wrote over 40 books, covering everything from children’s picture books to mystery stories. She also wrote under the name Wendell Farmer, but all her horse books were written as Lavinia R Davis. She was born in New York City, but spent most of her childhood in Red Bank, New Jersey. It was here that she became interested in horses. As she put it herself, she “lived, dreamed and worshipped horses.” At the age of seven, she began writing, but there was an extensive gap until she was actually published. Her first book (a mystery story) was published after she married. The man in question was a lawyer and they had six children. Home was a farm in Connecticut, where she and the children all competed for the attentions of the one family horse, Bessie Bump.

“Writing and riding are my favorite hobbies,” she said, and her writing career covered many different forms of fiction. She was lucky with her illustrators, with Caldecott Honor Medal winning Hildegard Woodward, and Paul Brown, probably the most sought after equine illustrator in America, working on her books. It is the Paul Brown illustrated titles for which you will pay most. Some of them were printed in the UK, and can be bought reasonably cheaply here, Paul Brown never having quite the following in the UK that he did in America.

Finding the books
Three titles had UK publications: Hobby Horse Hill, Pony Jungle and Plough Penny Mystery. These are generally reasonably easy to find, though can be pricey if they have their dustjackets. In the USA, the Paul Brown factor makes Buttonwood Island, Hobby Horse Hill, Melody, Mutton Bone and Sam and Plow Penny Mystery expensive, though reasonably priced ex-library copies can be found. Donkey Detectives is cheap, as is Janey’s Fortune. Pony Jungle is reasonably priced, as is Sandy’s Spurs. Secret of Donkey Island can be harder to find, but pricing doesn’t seem consistent.

Links and sources
Dustjacket of Sandy’s Spurs
A short Wikipedia article on the author
Information on Tomfolio, together with an example of the author’s signature
Terri A Wear: Horse Stories, Scarecrow Press, Metuchen,1987

Bibliography (horse books only)

Hobby Horse Hill

Doubleday, Doran & Co Inc, New York,1939, illus Paul Brown, 309 pp.
E M Hale & Co, Wisconsin, 1939
William Heinemann, London, 1939, 273 pp.
Scholastic paperback edition 1959, illus Charles Beck

The Wade family think more about horses than they do about their guests, as their cousin Terry finds when she visits them and finds them far more excited about Cassandra, a hunter arriving on the same train. There are many adventures throughout the summer, but then Cassandra’s stay is cut short. Her
subsequent shipment to Virginia is followed by a secret moonlight ride with a mysterious conclusion.

Buttonwood Island

Doubleday, Doran &  Co Inc, New York, 1940, illus Paul Brown, 299 pp.

“The two oldest of the four Hardwickes discovered a real island not far from where they lived. But it was hard to keep an island a secret and almost at once the new neighbour boy, Sig, from the next farm, and their younger brother and sister, the twins, knew all about it. It was Sig’s idea to start a riding club with the old barn as a secret stable.”

Pony Jungle

Doubleday, Doran & Co Inc, New York,1941, illus Paul Brown, 309 pp.
Collins, London, 1944, 285 pp.

Although Dibs is longing to ride with Rosemary and Patrick, all she has to ride is Major, the work horse. However, she has a stroke of luck when Mrs Edgemont catches her riding Gray Mouse and decides to let her use the pony for the summer.

Plow Penny Mystery

Doubleday, Doran & Co Inc, New York,1942, illus Paul Brown, 275 pp.

As Plough Penny Mystery
Collins, London, 1944, 1949, 249 pp.

Connie’s new neighbour, Larry was “beyond doubt a sissy” – afraid of horses. Clown, Connie’s brother, feels differently. It is Larry who found a curious penny while digging, leading to their club at Plow Penny Farm. They move horses and pets into the shed, and fix up the deserted schoolhouse but then trouble starts.

Melody, Mutton Bone, and Sam

Doubleday, New York, 1947, illus Paul Brown, 245 pp.

Sam loves his own sway-backed Mutton Bone and the mare Melody, owned by Hoofbeats Brady. When Hoofbeats is about to lose his riding stable, Sam has to do something to help. Sam and his friends hadn’t planned on being involved though, in a mystery involving Miss Sedgewick and her mare Red Queen, the most dangerous mare in the countryside.

Sandy’s Spurs

Doubleday, New York, 1951, illus Grace Paull, 246 pp.

Sandy doesn’t fit in when he visits Virginia; Ashe and Matty can’t understand someone who doesn’t like horses, and Sandy’s only friend is 7-year-old Carter. Then three baby woodchucks are mysteriously drowned, and the boys unite. There are other strange happenings, and it is hard to solve the mystery when they also have a horse show and a 4-H Club Fair to prepare for,
especially after Sandy found he did like to ride.

The Secret of Donkey Island

Doubleday, New York, 1952, illus Jean MacDonald Porter, 246 pp.

Captain Kirk is on Lion Island, along with his donkey Bunty. Jamie visits them, and together they try and find out who used to live on the island and who is shooting all the birds.

Donkey Detectives

Doubleday, New York, 1955, illus Jean MacDonald Porter, 220 pp.

Duffy wins a donkey in a raffle after he’s bought a ticket by Mme Zappatti. Duffy and the donkey then solve the mystery of why Mme Zappati is still hanging round the house she has just sold.

Janey’s Fortune

Doubleday, New York, 1957, cover art by Albert Orbaan, 240 pp.

Janey had wanted to go to England with her family, but after a letter from her grandfather, who recently died, hints at a fortune to be found in his silver mine, Janey falls in with her grandfather’s plan and decides to go to New Mexico to find the fortune. There are many mysteries when she gets there, as well as some romance.