I love reading to the girls before they go to sleep. A has always enjoyed her bedtime story right from 12 weeks old when we bought her 'Oscar et ses amis' on our first holiday to France as a family. P on the other hand uses story time to get to sleep and rarely hears the end of a chapter. She must have a very potted version of Enid Blyton in her head.
I have to admit I am always slightly disappointed by the kids books, only a very few get the thumbs-up from me although I have never heard A say she didn't enjoy a story. The Famous Five always have adventures in caves, with treasure, a baddie and some sliding panels. Roald Dahls stories are always so wonderful at the beginning, the middle enchanting and then I'm left feeling flat at the end. Some I just can't read out, those fairy stories or ones about kittens - as much as I like kittens. But the Jinny at Finmory series is something else, yes it is essentially about a girl and her horse but so much more than that.
I remember reading these stories as a child, I was perhaps about eleven, imagining I was the protagonist, galloping over the wild moors and feeling the horses breath in the morning mist. When I am reading the stories to the girls they are enthralled, P doesn't fall asleep and they are both at the edge of their beds. They want to be Jinny too and the magical language - certainly not dumbed down for children - takes them right out of their sleepy selves. I find it difficult to read out for that familiar lump in my throat and tears pricking at the emotional parts, the house at Finmory is just as I imagined it as a child, but now I understand it so much more. Maybe Jinny at Finmory had a real influence on my life and I am only just finding that out now.
You see, the stories are about a family who ditch the rat race. A family who give up city living to buy a crumbling farm house in the Scottish Highlands beacause the dad is so disillusioned with his role as a probation officer. He decides to make pots instead, grow vegetables and write a book. They have three children, Jinny being the red-haired wild child who loses herself in her drawings and horse fantasies. The children ride their shaggy highland ponies to school - a school they hate - but Jinny really wants to save Shantih, a wild chestnut Arab mare who has escaped the circus and is running free on the moors. Determination, adventure, magic, Celtic powers and alternative living provide a fantastic story. A story about bucking the system and questioning opinions, of attainable dreams and pure childhood as free as it should be.