Town & Country (UK)
Lydia Slater finds unbridled joy in childhood equestrian tales
We have all had different methods of coping with the stress and uncertainty of the past year. In my case, it sent me galloping back to a childhood passion for horse literature, whose youthful heroines have no restrictions placed on their ability to roam, and about the worst thing that happens is falling off at the water jump.
My enjoyment was greatly enhanced by the discovery of Jane Badger Books, a new imprint that republishes outof-print pony classics with the original illustrations. And I was not the only one to seek nostalgic solace here. ‘My sales went up quite considerably in lockdown, much more than I had anticipated,’ says Badger, a former antiquarian bookseller specialising in pony books, and the author of Heroines on Horseback, an exhilarating canter through the genre. Her expertise led to an approach by the heirs of the Scottish writer Patricia Leitch to help them find a publisher who was prepared to re-issue her books; failing to find one, Badger decided to do it herself.
Dream of Fair Horses came out in May 2019, and since then, she has published 18 paperbacks and over 30 e-books, by well-loved writers including KM Peyton, the Pullein-thompson sisters and Ruby Ferguson. ‘Many of these were first published in the 1950s, when Britain was still in rationing. They were escapist even at the time,’ says Badger, reminiscing lovingly on the enormous feasts the protagonists sit down to after a day in the saddle. ‘The author Geoffrey Trease wrote, “You could have sold Richard III if you had given it the right wrapper and called it
A Pony for Richard.”’ Our kingdom for a horse, indeed.