The Jill books ride again

One of the questions I used to get asked quite often as a publisher of classic pony books was, ‘Why aren’t the Jill books available?’

The last time the Jill books were in print was when Fidra Books managed to license the rights in the 2010s, and printed the first few of the series. And there it stopped, as they weren’t able to license the remaining titles.

What happened to the rights?

Ruby Ferguson actually sold the rights of the whole series to her publishers, Hodder, in the 1960s. This is, and was, quite unusual, but I believe it was done for tax reasons as Ruby and her husband moved to Jersey.

I have been trying for years to find out if Hodder still owned the copyrights, and it has taken until now to do so. I had got absolutely nowhere until I’d started my own publishing business, and was in fairly regular contact with people in the industry to clear copyrights and license permissions. It occurred to me that one of them might well be worth asking about the Jill rights, as their company was part of the same group as Hodder.

The first inkling of hope

I asked, expecting to get the usual neutral answer, but no, the request was passed on, and I had a response. It then took Hachette (who are the parent group) a lot of searching to check that they did indeed have the copyrights. All credit to them, because this was all going on during lockdown when many publishing people were working from home, but they did manage to track down the information.

So far, so good, and the request was then passed to the editing team.

They weren’t keen to license the books as they felt they wouldn’t sit well as part of what they were now responsible for.

That was a bit of a blow, but then I thought well, I have edited over 40 texts now, and I’m very used to doing the updating that is necessary to remove things you really can’t say now. In fact, authors’ estates often ask me specifically to do this. I am more than prepared to do any editing that is required for the Jill texts (and for those who are saying what? What could there possibly be? there are a couple of words which are really going to have to change). If Hachette don’t want them as part of their lists, then perhaps, I thought, they’d be prepared to sell them.

I really did think nothing ventured, nothing gained. They can only say ‘no’, I thought, and at least then we’ll have an answer.

But they said ‘yes’.

It’s taken a while to iron everything out, but the contracts have been signed, and I’ve now bought the copyrights and am the official owner of the Jill books.

The illustrations are proving rather more complicated, but I’m hoping to get there in the end.

What now?

And so the Jill books will start to be available again from 2022. They’ll all be available as eBooks, in the usual Jane Badger Books format. They’ll be available on Amazon and Kobo.

They will also be available as paperbacks, with illustrations in some form. Hardbacks are another thing we’re considering.

Huge thanks to Hachette UK for agreeing to sell the copyrights so they can live again. It was a massive amount of work for them to track down all the information they needed, and I am hugely grateful.

And I still can’t quite believe it. It really does feel like one of those golden dreams Jill had, imagining herself on some wonderful show jumper at the biggest and best shows. I first read these books when I was about eight or nine, and I’ve loved them ever since. They were part of my dreams. Jill was sparky, independent, and she competed with everyone else on her own terms – on equal terms. And she was funny. And imperfect. And human. To (thereabouts) quote Jill, in Jill’s Gymkhana:

… quite honestly if anyone had told me three years ago that anything so terrific as buying the Jill books would ever be associated with my name I should have thought them completely mad. Yet such was to be my destiny.

Jill’s Gymkhana

The Jill books are all available again. You can buy them directly from my website, or via the usual eBook retailers.


48 responses to “The Jill books ride again”

  1. Muriel Nally avatar
    Muriel Nally

    This is the most wonderful news! I also read these books from about the age of eight or nine & of course loved them. When I was 10 I was lucky enough to get a horse (a 4yo, 15hh, just broken Irish Cob – highly suitable for a slightly nervous child who had only ridden riding school ponies). Kiwi (as he became) was black with a small white star & socks on both hind legs. I was bitterly disappointed, however, when my mum vetoed my first choice of name, which was of course, Black Boy! At the time I couldn’t see anything wrong with giving him that name. Aahh – happy days.

    I hadn’t thought about it until now but wasn’t Ruby Ferguson ahead of her time to write a series of books with a heroine like Jill?

    1. Jane Badger avatar
      Jane Badger

      I think Jill was unique, because she lived life so much on her own terms. She’s quite like Joanna Cannan’s Jean, in some ways (I also publish two of those if you fancy a compare and contrast), but Jill had more of a struggle in life than Jean.

  2. Christi avatar

    Hooray and huzzah!! I have a very beat up set in paperback that somehow made it to the US, but I’d love to have a nicer set (especially if the illustrations can be worked out).

    Have you considered expanding into books by obscure American authors (Dorothy Lyons and Lynn Hall, for example)?

    1. Jane Badger avatar
      Jane Badger

      Well, I would love to expand into American authors! I need though to research copyright law and how it would work and what the tax implications would be. But definitely something to consider.

  3. Kim avatar

    Let me know when I can buy them and remind me of the book names at that time!

    1. Jane Badger avatar
      Jane Badger

      Don’t worry, I will! There will be news here, on my social media, and on my newsletter. The first one out will be Jill’s Gymkhana, which you can pre-order now on Amazon.

  4. Jane Hammill avatar
    Jane Hammill

    So looking forward to reading these again.

    1. Jane Badger avatar
      Jane Badger

      Thank you.

  5. Tish Keely avatar
    Tish Keely

    The books and their illustrations look like old classical books… would love to see them in hardcover but paperbacks
    Will be fine.. if the illustrations are a part!

    1. Jane Badger avatar
      Jane Badger

      The plan is to do both as long as the illustrations can be sort out.

  6. Jan Sheldon avatar
    Jan Sheldon

    Absolutely brilliant. This is going to be fabulous for an entire new generation of sweet little girls who dream of horses, ponies and beautiful daffodil fields. Kudos to you for your perseverance. Can’t wait to see the outcome.

    1. Jane Badger avatar
      Jane Badger

      Thank you very much – it took so long to do it still hasn’t quite sunk in.

  7. Tinne avatar

    This is very good news 😁👌

    1. Jane Badger avatar
      Jane Badger

      Thank you!

  8. jill hobson avatar
    jill hobson

    I sometimes wonder if these books made me the person I am now, they certainly had some sort of formative effect on my horse crazy, independent nature! Absolutely delighted that you will bring them back to life for my grand-children! Congratulations and wishing you the very best of luck! Jill.

    1. Jane Badger avatar
      Jane Badger

      Thank you so much. I think you’re right – there are many of us for whom Jill was formative.

  9. Valerie light avatar
    Valerie light

    Fantastic, these are lovely books and fill a need for today

    1. Jane Badger avatar
      Jane Badger

      I think so – I’m glad I’m not the only one!

  10. Val godsell avatar
    Val godsell

    These books totally passed me by… but as a 64yr old I’m still looking forward to reading them! X

    1. Jane Badger avatar
      Jane Badger

      Thank you – I hope you enjoy them.

  11. Jeane avatar

    I am very glad to hear this! I didn’t read the Jill books at a younger age so I don’t have nostalgia for them, but the more books I read about horses the more I enjoy them, so I would like to have the chance to read these someday.

    1. Jane Badger avatar
      Jane Badger

      You have a treat to come, I hope.

  12. JoH avatar

    Reading this made me cry. It is like a Jill story! A wonderful dream come true! Some of us hold Jill very dear to our heart and I can’t wait to hear about it. Please keep me posted

    1. Jane Badger avatar
      Jane Badger

      Of course – there will be news here, and on my social media, as well as on my newsletter if you subscribe to that.

  13. Jane avatar

    How fantastic

    1. Jane Badger avatar
      Jane Badger

      Thank you 🙂

  14. Kate Nelson avatar
    Kate Nelson

    Fabulous! I am so excited to be able to read them again…..and so mystified as to the few words that needed to change!

    1. Jane Badger avatar
      Jane Badger

      Thankfully they are very few.

  15. Rosie avatar

    This is very good news. I have massive regret about not keeping my pony book collection….I suppose when you are 14 you don’t realise they might not be easy to come by in the future! Looking forward to seeing them again 🙂

    1. Jane Badger avatar
      Jane Badger

      That’s true – I have made the same mistake much older than 14 too!

  16. Rachel Bedingfield avatar

    Fab-U-Lous! I adored the Jill books and passed them onto my daughter, who also adored them. But when she grew up I sent them to a charity shop and she’s never forgiven me. I will be able to make up for it now!

    1. Jane Badger avatar
      Jane Badger


  17. Elaine Brown avatar
    Elaine Brown

    For someone like me, who grew up on “Jill” and other similar books, I am so thrilled about this. It’s not really for my own sake as I have been faithful to Jill for many years but more for the sake of up and coming generations that they will have the opportunity to read the real Jill books. Children’s literature these days is full of celebrities and things supernatural. I hope the new generations (and some of us oldies) will enjoy reading the books and the traditional values they contain.

    1. Jane Badger avatar
      Jane Badger

      Thank you Elaine – I hope so too.

  18. Linda Hudson avatar
    Linda Hudson

    I read all of the Jill books as a child & totally love them. Would buy them all in paperback and love to read them again 💕🦄

    1. Jane Badger avatar
      Jane Badger

      Thank you!

  19. Corinne avatar

    Please, please, please! Publish some pretty hardback versions.

    There are an awful lot of us middle aged horsey women, with a tiny bit of disposable income left, after the horses have eaten most of it. We will buy them in droves!

    These were my favourite books as a horse mad 12/13 year old, back in the day.

    1. Jane Badger avatar
      Jane Badger

      As long as I can get permission for the illustrations, hardbacks are in the plan.

  20. Sarah Stewart avatar
    Sarah Stewart

    I’m so happy to hear this!! I will be able to order them to Canada right?

    1. Jane Badger avatar
      Jane Badger

      You will!

  21. Jayne Mumford avatar
    Jayne Mumford

    Oh thank you so very much.

    I loved the Jill books when I was younger, I am still crazy about horses, and these books are just what I needed in this mad, busy, uncertain times.

    Your writing captures Jill exactly. Very many congratulations on such wonderful work.

    More please!

  22. Melanie avatar

    I can’t believe they were prepared to let something as great as these sit and rot. I’m glad they’ve gone to someone who wants to work with them. The Jill series have magic about them, and by no means should be discarded out of modern political correctness.

    1. Jane Badger avatar
      Jane Badger

      I’m glad you agree! The books are of their time, but I think Jill herself is timeless.

  23. Drusilla Sutherland avatar
    Drusilla Sutherland

    I read all the Jill books when I came to England from the USA in the 60’s and loved them. I didn’t realise them that they had been written in the late 40’s /early 50’s and by the time I had read them, Ruby Ferguson had died. I have recently spent a lot of money buying up 60’s paperback copies with all the original illustrations. I love re reading them about once a year for a bit of nostalgia. I think your two recent ones, following on from Ruby’s last one really capture her writing style and I think, are very good ideas of what Jill would have got up to. Thank goodness her mum martied Martin!!!!! Thank you for the revival.

  24. Marie Vernay avatar
    Marie Vernay

    Congratulations, Jane – what a wonderful achievement! I hope you manage to tempt nine and ten-year olds away from their phones and into the wonderful world of Jill. These books have remained with me for over 40 years, and I am still riding ponies (somehow, I could never quite make the transition to horses – it’s an emotional thing even though a riding instructor once told me I was pathetic!). I loved your Heroines on Horseback book and recently bought your Jill sequel which I am saving up for a quiet moment. Thank you for championing this fantastic genre!

    1. Jane Badger avatar
      Jane Badger

      Thank you – like you I still prefer ponies! I am happier closer to the ground. I’m glad you liked HonH, and do hope you enjoy the Jill sequel too.

  25. Ann avatar

    Loved the Jill books. My sister passed them down to me and I’ve passed them to my daughter.

  26. Janice Edwards avatar
    Janice Edwards

    I seem to have missed your original blog though I am working my way through your Jill books again on Kindle. I grew up with Jill ( I am now 66 ) and had to replace a lot of them with second hand paperbacks! I will definitely be treating myself- especially if you manage to do them in hardbacks. I particularly like the new covers and illustrations- I love anything by Anne Bullen

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