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Thelwell’s Pony Panorama


Review by Nancy Brannon

I can’t think of a more appropriate book for summer horse camps, or a more fun book to read! When I got word from Rebecca at Trafalgar Square Books that this one was coming, I was thrilled with anticipation at revisiting those wonderful, hilarious Thelwell cartoons! Trafalgar Square has put together a classic collection, which includes Gymkhana, Thelwell Goes West, and Penelope. So, there’s something here for both English and Western riders.

When my daughter (a member of U.S. Pony Club) was growing up with ponies and horses, I made sure to introduce her to the Thelwell books. We both had hours and hours of fun with the books, and I even had a framed collection of Thelwell cartoons to decorate her equestrian-themed room.

Following the 1953 publication of British artist Norman Thelwell’s first pony cartoon, his name became synonymous worldwide with images of little girls and fat hairy ponies – up to all kinds of antics. He found his true comic niche with Pony Club girls and their comic ponies, a subject for which he became best-known, and which led to a cartoon strip about such a pair.

Thelwell’s Gymkhana was originally published in 1979 and includes hilarious cartoons that reflect the basic instruction about horses and ponies that beginning Pony Clubbers might learn, starting with points of a horse – including “breaking point” and “point of no return.” Apropos for May, there’s a section “A Day at the Races,” with fat ponies and children dressed as jockeys.

Thelwell Goes West (originally published in 1975) has all the usual pony antics, but with cowboys and cowgirls. There are cartoons about the Mustang, the Quarter Horse, the Bronco (who bucks while sticking out his tongue at a taken-aback little girl), the Pinto, the Appaloosa, the Morgan and Palomino. In “Quick on the Drawl,” there are cartoon illustrations of tender foot, side kicks, and the lone stranger (complete with skunk on horseback).

One of my favorites is the pony bracing with all four legs against the trailer, while child is trying to push the pony into the horse trailer: “you’ll never get me into one of those things!”

The final section is the famous Penelope (originally published in 1972), which includes another hilarious trying to get the pony in the trailer cartoon, this time with Penelope on the pony, who is being pushed by two grown-ups: “I’ll be glad when she gets interested in boys.” This is a good section for horse campers, with scenes from the “riding school” and lots of activities that kids will be doing at camps. The book ends, appropriately, with a cartoon of child and pony riding away and a sign on the pony’s tail: “if you can read this notice, you’ll probably get kicked.”

There’s so much to enjoy here, you won’t want to put it down.

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