Krementz, Jill

About the author

I’ve included Jill Krementz’ A Very Young Rider as although it is not fiction, it’s a book that’s remembered with enormous fondness by its American readers, and was an essential part of their literary childhood. This is the story, told in photographs, of 10-year-old Vivi Malloy and her pony. Vivi was a real person, and with the exception of the section at the end, where she gets a pony for Christmas, all the scenes in the book were photographed as they happened.

Jill Krementz, a photographer, whose work appeared in The New York Times and in the permanent collections of several museums, took her first step in finding the right girl to photograph for the book with a visit to the M J Knoud Saddlery Shop on Madison Avenue where she bought a load of equine books so that she had some idea of what qualifications the child she needed would have to have. She was then introduced to George Morris, formerly a member of the United States Equestrian Team, and now a trainer, and then to one of his students, who told Krementz to come to the Boulder Brook Horse Show.

There she saw Vivi. “Vivi had just been pinned and she had a quality that appealed to me…. I hung round for the remainder of the day – observing, taking pictures, and meeting the rest of the family – and came back the next day.” Vivi had some reservations, thinking the photographing might interfere with her concentration, but “she decided that she could probably handle it, providing I promised not to talk to her while she was getting ready to show. I agreed.”

“I spent roughly a year following Vivi with my camera and notebook to horse shows around the country. I was with her when she won and when she lost. The two worst things about working on this book were having to get up at four a.m. when she was showing, and being beaten at checkers every time we played.”

The book is an account of Vivi’s equestrian life as she looks after her pony Penny and goes to shows. The Pony Book Chronicles says: “The action is narrated by Vivi, whose voice alternates between matter-of-fact steadiness about chores and riding, and gleeful excitement about special events like a trip to a big horse show.” The book is an absolutely charming read: Vivi obviously had something of a blessed life, but this is not obtrusive at all; you simply relate to Vivi and her enthusiasm.

There’s an excellent review of the book on the Pony Book Chronicles, and I’ve also included a link to a reproduction of an article which appeared in The Chronicle of the Horse, where you can find out what happened to the characters in the book.

Finding the book
It wasn’t printed in the UK, but is reasonably easy to find in the USA.

Links and sources
Lunch with Jill Krementz
Pony Book Chronicles on A Very Young Rider
What happened to Vivi Malloy (at The Chronicle of The Horse – no longer available)
Vivien Malloy, Vivi’s mother

Bibliography (horse books only)

a Very Young Rider

Alfred A Knopf, Inc, New York, 1977,
photographs by the author. Unpaginated.
Reprinted 1978. Book Club edition.

(Front cover, rear cover, internal illustration)

A year in the life of Vivi Malloy as she looks after her pony Penny, trains, and takes the pony to shows.