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Keith Robertson

Keith Robertson (1914 - 1977) wrote widely for children, and under the pseudonym Carlton Keith, wrote murder mysteries. He is best known for his Henry Reed series, about a small boy and his entrepreneurial activities, but he also wrote five horse books, including his first published novel, Ticktock and Jim. This is set in Texas, and is about a boy and the neglected pony he rescues. It has a sequel: Ticktock and Jim, Deputy Sheriffs. Most of Robertson’s horse books seem to continue the business theme explored in the Henry Reed books: Jim starts a Pony Express service, and Tim and Kate, in The Phantom Rider, start a horse rental business.


Keith Robertson was born in Iowa, and was brought up on farms and in small towns, as his father moved frequently. Like his hero Jim, he traded a horse for a watch - whether this was a good trade or not, history does not relate! In his varied career, Keith Robertson worked as a saleman, so it’s possible to argue this career at least had an impact on his books. Besides working as a salesman, Keith Robertson served in the American Navy, and during World War II, served as the captain of a destroyer.


Finding the books: If Wishes Were Horses and The Lonesome Sorrel are quite difficult to find, and can be expensive. Both the Ticktock books are easy to find, particularly as they were both re-published as part of the Famous Horse series. The Phantom Rider is reasonably easy to find. Only one of his horse books was published in the UK: Ticktock and Jim, re-titled as Watch for a Pony. It is very hard to find.


Links and sources

Terri A. Wear: Horse Stories, an Annotated Bibliography, Scarecrow Press, 1987

Wikipedia article on Keith Robertson

Further biographical information

Obituary of Keith Robertson, New York Times, 1977

Dustjacket, Ticktock and Jim

Many thanks to Lisa Catz, Susan Bourgeau and Alison McCallum for the photographs and information, and to Scot Gillies for information on the UK printing of Ticktock and Jim, and on Henry Reed’s Big Show..


Ticktock series

Ticktock and Jim

Ticktock and Jim, Deputy Sheriffs

Bibliography - horse books only

The Lonesome Sorrel

Winston, Philadelphia, 1952, 214 pp, illus Taylor Oughton



Cliff is not interested in horses, but he is then given a horse. This is Cinnamon, who does not
usually like people. To him, Cliff is different, as he reminds him of a boy who used to own him.



The Phantom Rider

Viking, New York, 1955, 222 pp, illus Jack Weaver



Tim and Kate are going to start a horse rental business, and this they do by buying a donkey
and cart. Meanwhile, Tim investigates the mysterious grey ghost horse and rider who have
been seen galloping around the locality.




If Wishes Were Horses

Harper, New York, 1958,  246 pp, illus Paul E Kennedy

Might have had a paperback publication as a Harper Trophy paperback.



Set in Iowa, the teenage hero’s mother has died, and he has to go and live with his aunt and
uncle, who run a livery stable.



Ticktock and Jim

Winston, Philadelphia, 1948, 240 pp, illus Everett Stahl

Grosset & Dunlap, illus Wesley Dennis, in the Famous Horses Series

Possibly re-published as Watch for a Pony, William Heinemann, London, 1949,
illus Wesley Dennis


Jim has a precious heirloom watch, but trades it for a scruffy, neglected pony.  
Jim’s father is unimpressed until Jim manages to start a business with the pony.




Ticktock and Jim, Deputy Sheriffs

Winston, Philadelphia, 1949, 215 pp, illus Everett Stahl

Grosset & Dunlap, illus Wesley Dennis, in the Famous Horses Series



Jim and Ticktock are out on their Pony Express errand service, and become involved in a
truck hijacking mystery.




Henry Reed's Big Show

Viking Press, New York, 1970, 206 pp, illus Robert McCloskey

Yearling, 1978, pb

Yearling, 1983, pb


One of the Henry Reed series, in which the horse Galileo plays
a prominent role.