Book name: The Outsider
Author: Monica Edwards
Publisher: Lutterworth Press
Genre: Pony book
Publication Date: 1961
Star Rating: 5/5
Monica Edwards wrote a series of pony books set in Punchbowl Farm featuring the Thornton family. The Outsider belongs to this series.
The Outsider opens with good news for the family. Their father has won an art competition prize of hundreds of pounds.
There is more good news when the reproduction rights to the picture are sold for commercial use.
Mr and Mrs Thornton take their younger son, Peter, away on holiday to France.
This leaves Andrea, Dion and Lindsey to look after the farm along with Fritz, a German student staying with the family to improve his English.
The Thorntons invite their old friends Meryon, Rissa, Roger, Tamzin and Diccon to join them at the farm.
Rissa and Tamzin bring their ponies, and Rissa helps Lindsey train her colt, who is in danger of getting out of hand because Lindsey isn’t firm enough with him.
They soon spot a fallow deer grazing with their cows and playing with their calf Midnight.
However, Lindsey is concerned to see that the deer appears to be injured from jumping over barbed wire onto their land.
Worse, a neighbouring farmer comes to shoot on their land without permission, putting the deer in danger.
Lindsey is determined to save the deer, especially when she notices that the deer has a fawn. The animal is becoming quite tame, but they still aren’t able to catch her.
Meryon sheepishly admits to having gone through a cowboy phase, and he practises with the washing line to lasso the deer.
Things become a lot more complicated when they decide he’ll have to do this on horseback, but fortunately an unexpected source of expert help emerges.
The Outsider was a lovely story. Lindsey is as passionate about saving the deer and the fawn as she is about all animals, and she was well supported by the group.
Some pony books contain an element of romance, usually as an addition to the main plot and sometimes merely hinted at. Here, the second plot strand arises from Andrea’s crush on Meryon, who is studying for his A Levels and wants to be a doctor.
Meryon’s understanding with Tamzin means that Andrea’s feelings are not reciprocated, and we also feel sorry for Charles, Andrea’s boyfriend, for being pushed aside.
Lindsey and Rissa work hard to ensure that Andrea becomes disillusioned. Since they are several years younger than Andrea and Meryon this is achieved by a harmless prank.
The Outsider was a book that appealed to all ages and to boys as well as girls, courtesy of Diccon’s consuming interest in frogs, spiders, beetles and snakes. It was also willing to show girls as being perfectly competent with machinery (Rissa with Dion’s farm equipment) and boys being able to cook and enjoying it (Roger). In that sense, it was well ahead of its time in an era when children’s books tended to reinforce traditional gender expectations.
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If you fancy something different, you might like to take a chance on my review of Gwendy's Magic Feather.