Sunday, 27 January 2013

Horsing around with the Classics

This is our first Classics Club review post and it’s five reads from Little M. Spot the theme! For both of us, this is also our first foray into exploring what the ‘classic’ in Classic Books actually means – for us.

Here's a link to our 'master' Classics Club list.

 5 Titles read and reviewed by Little M 
(in order of first publication date)

1. The Red Pony by John Steinbeck

2. My Friend Flicka by Mary O’Hara

3. Kit Hunter Show Jumper in South American Mission by Peter Grey

4. The Secret of Shadow Ranch (Nancy Drew #1) by Carolyn Keene

5. The Magic Pony (Jinny at Finmory #7) by Patricia Leitch

L to R: My Friend Flicka, The Red Pony, The Secret of Shadow Ranch, The Magic Pony, South American Mission + dustjacket
Spoiler alert: because this is a discussion post, there are a few big spoilers in some of the reviews. We don't think this will spoil the read too much though. But, please be warned.


1. The Red Pony
by John Steinbeck,1970, Corgi, London.

First published 1937/1938.

The Red Pony is about a boy named Jody who wants a pony. He gets a little red pony and names him Gabilan. Unfortunately, Gabilan dies and poor Jody is heartbroken.

I thought this was an okay book. It’s probably not at the top of my favourites list but I would definitely recommend it for future generations because it’s sad and happy at the same time. I didn’t notice that the language was old-fashioned in this book. I think there are some bits I didn’t understand in this novel. The storyline/plot is not as interesting as the one in The Magic Pony but I really enjoyed it.

Verdict: Little M would recommend it to next generations.

2. My Friend Flicka
by Mary O’Hara, 1972, Eyre & Spottiswoode, London.

First published 1943. This edition: secondhand hardback passed down three generations.

My Friend Flicka is absolutely one of my favourite pony books ever. Or maybe even my favourite pony book because of the plot. Spoiler: I loved the way one little boy wanted a foal so much that when he got her he didn’t want to leave her alone. Then when his filly is close to death, he sits with her all night in the river almost killing himself. I cried in parts when I thought the horse was dead but I also giggled at some points.

Verdict: I would definitely recommend this to current and future generations. I read this book because my M recommended it to me.

M: I read this when I was about 11 and loved it. Mary O’Hara’s whole Wyoming ranch trilogy was one of my favourites ever.

3. South American Mission
by Peter Grey, World Distributors, Manchester. Publishing date around 1959-1961.

Kit Hunter Show Jumper in South American Mission is the second book in the Kit Hunter series. It is about Kit Hunter and her friends. Her uncle hurts himself while riding. This has put his plans of going to America and getting some horses way out of the window. One day, a man named Mr Gregg comes by and offers to help them with the horses in America. He and Kit decide that Kit and her friend will go to America and take part in the show jumping and wait until her uncle can come out and help her with deciding which horses to bring back.

I thought this book was one of the best pony books I have ever read because it’s exciting and I couldn’t guess what was going to happen next.

Verdict: I would definitely recommend this to future generations. I bought this book in a secondhand bookshop in South Africa.

M: I read one of the Kit Hunter novels, The Wild One, when I was a girl and enjoyed it.

4. The Secret of Shadow Ranch (Nancy Drew #1)
by Carolyn Keene, 1979, Armada, London; first published 1971.

The Secret of Shadow Ranch is the first Nancy Drew Mystery. Nancy is visiting her aunt and uncle (I think) with her cousins. There is a mystery at the ranch. Sometimes a ghost white horse gallops through the yard and breaks the fences. One of the workers is a bit mysterious. He might be part of the mystery. Will Nancy be able to solve it?

I loved this book. It is in my top pony books because I love mysteries and I love horses so it’s a perfect book for me.
Verdict: I would definitely recommend this to the next generation. I think it will be a good book for them to read because it will be an old mystery type of book rather than the newer ones.

M: I read many of the Nancy Drew mysteries when I was a girl. I loved them. I recently discovered that Carolyn Keene is a pseudonym and that the novels were ghostwritten and used a formula. This partly explains why one of the titles that I had two different edition of, The Clue of the Broken Locket, were also completely different stories! Because of this, I’m not sure the novels would count as classics in literature, but as a series, I’d say it was some kind of classic.

5. The Magic Pony (Jinny at Finmory #7)
by Patricia Leitch, 2012, Catnip. London. First published in 1977.

This book is about a girl, Jinny, who owns a pony. The pony becomes lame and the vet can’t see what’s wrong but whilst at a fair, Jinny meets a girl who tells her about a woman at a riding stable who might be able to help. The story moves on to Jinny trying to save Easter, an old dying pony.
I quite liked this book but it’s not my favourite pony book because the writing annoys me. I think this is because it uses old fashioned slang (maybe?).

I think a classic is a book that generations might read.

M: I read Rebel Pony by Patricia Leitch when I was 12 and I thought it was OK, which was quite a low rating from me.

Verdict: we wouldn’t recommend it to next generations, so for us, it is probably not a classic.


M: Overall, we noticed in the discussion that some of the older publications hadn’t dated in the same way that some of the newer ones had. We think ‘not dating’ and ‘recommending to future generations’ might be a sign of a classic.

All book copies were our own.



  1. Could the theme be horses? But no Black Beauty - wise. I can't stand that book. I like the other choices, though. And will be very curious to see what you decide it a classic for you.

    1. Yes, horses! Black Beauty is still on our list to read. I've never got through it before so we'll have to see.


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