Joy Wotton, in her article A Tale of Good Women: the Evangelistic Career Novels of Patricia Baldwin, describes the evangelistic pony book as “a quite terrifying sub-category.” Yes, quite: though perhaps the presence of the pony was intended to sugar the pill. Patricia Baldwin was not alone in writing pony books aimed at converting their young reader towards more than worship of their pony. Beryl Bye and Marion P Stroud were amongst her contemporaries, and the torch is not yet extinguished: Dandi Daley Mackall has several series on the go right now in America. The overtly evangelistic pony book is, admittedly, a tiny division of the genre. In pony books of the 1930s to 1960s, characters often go to church - Jill goes on Christmas Day in Jill’s Gymkhana, and Augusta in Diana Pullein-Thompson’s I Wanted a Pony gets into dire trouble after selling the buttons from her best-coat-for-church. Their faith, if they have one, is seen as more of a social event: you go to church because that is what people do. There are moral dilemmas in the books, but the ponies are the focus, not religious faith.
Patricia Baldwin’s novels are different: their characters do indeed learn about careers, and have romances, but they are all aimed at showing how a Christian faith can make a difference to how you behave. Ricky,
Patricia Baldwin (who also wrote under the names John Hunter and Christine Hunter) mostly wrote career novels. Some of her titles include Ann Hudson, Apprentice Hairdresser and Rosemary Takes to Teaching. I can’t help but wonder what would have happened if Rosemary hadn’t taken to teaching, but both of those titles are far more terrifying to me than the evangelical pony book. At least in that the pony provides another focus for the working out of morality.
Finding the book: the book is very easy to find, and is usually very cheaply priced.
Sources and links:
Joy Wotton: A Tale of Good Women: The Evangelistic Carreer Novels of Patricia Baldwin (Folly, September 2009)