Gates, Doris

About the author

Doris Gates (1901–87) wrote many children’s books, and is best known for her book Blue Willow, which won the Newbery Honor Medal. She said:

All great fiction has an underlying theme concerned with a moral crisis. I think every one of my books does. There isn’t any other excuse for writing a book, as I see it.


Like Rutherford Montgomery, Doris Gates grew up on a ranch, surrounded by animals. She worked as a librarian at the Fresno County Public Library, and was director of children’s services. During the Depression, she worked with families in migrant camps, which inspired Blue Willow, a story set in that time about a girl and her family, who are itinerant farmworkers. The Blue Willow is the only beautiful thing the family own, a blue willow pattern plate.

As well as writing, Gates worked as an advisory editor with Ginn and Company, producing reading programmes. She later taught and lectured about children’s literature, before coming back to writing with her Melinda horse stories.

Doris Gates wrote three pony books, the later two about Melinda, and the first about Jonathan Rivers, who wants to become a jockey. The Little Vic of the title is a racehorse; the son of Man o’ War.

Finding the books
A Horse for Melinda (the UK title) is easy to find in the UK. A Filly for Melinda was only published in the USA. Ex-library copies are easy to source from the USA, but a good copy will be harder. Little Vic was not published in the UK, but is very readily available from the USA.

Links and sources
Children’s Literature Network (no longer extant)
Dictionary of Literary Biography (Bookrags) on Doris Gates


The Morgan pair
A Morgan for Melinda
A Filly for Melinda

pb printing of Blue Willow, Viking 1940, illus Paul Lantz

Bibliography (horse books only)

Little Vic

Viking Press, New York, 1951, illus Kate Seredy
Archway, 1969, pb

Pony believes in the new colt born to Giner and Victory, so when he is sold to another trainer, Pony manages to go with him.

A Morgan for Melinda

Viking Press, 1980, cover Arthur Thompson

As A Horse for Melinda
Carousel, London, pb, 1981

Melinda is scared of horses, but her father simply can’t see it. “All girls want a horse,” he came right back at me. You couldn’t be my daughter and not want one.” He buys Ethan, a Morgan stallion, and Melinda’s life changes.

A Filly for Melinda

Viking Press, New York, 1984, cover Donna Ruff

Life seems perfect for Melinda, with her lovely Morgan filly, but then she finds out that her family has money problems now that they have a new  baby.