Eleanor Edith Helme was a multi-talented lady who as well as being an author was also a reporter, columnist, naturalist and keen golfer. She wrote many books including general stories, dog stories, golfing books, and of course her famous books about Exmoor and its ponies. They have beautiful illustrations and are a must for anyone who loves this area of the world. Ms. Helme herself lived in Luccombe, near Dunkery Beacon, for over 20 years and her descriptions of the area are written from close experience.
Many of her books were illustrated by the great Lionel Edwards and as such are collectable for their illustrations alone.
She wrote two books along with Nance Paul (The Jerry series) although I have yet to find any information on her co-author.
There is a biography of her written by Eric Rowlands (which also contains a detailed bibliography). For details see below.
Jerry Series: (With Nance Paul) Short series about the adventures of an Exmoor pony.
1) JERRY, THE STORY OF AN EXMOOR PONY (EYRE & SPOTTISWOODE 1930) ILLUSTRATED BY CECIL ALDIN Reprinted in hardback SUMMARY: Whilst on holiday in Exmoor, the Marston family spots a mare and foal and young Robin falls in love with the foal. Major Marston is planning to retire to Exmoor in a few years time so he arranges with the foal's owner to buy him and have him ready for Robin when he is old enough to ride. When the long awaited move to Exmoor arrives, Robin is re-united with the pony whom he calls Jerry and the pair have a number of exciting adventures together. PONYMAD VIEW: Not a lot happens and like a lot of the older pony books it doesn't really have a plot, but this is nevertheless enjoyable: a well written easily read comfort read. The descriptions of the real life Exmoor locations are interesting and provide a nice backdrop. However definitely a book which supports the pony books are elitist argument, as the family featured have a number of horses and servants and no money worries. PONYMAD RATING: 3-4 HORSESHOES
2) THE JOKER AND JERRY AGAIN aka THE JOKER AND JERRY (Later editions) (EYRE & SPOTTISWOODE 1932) ILLUSTRATED BY CECIL ALDIN Reprinted in hardback a number of times. Later editions from 1953 onwards were re-titled, losing the word 'again' from the title. SUMMARY: Jerry is now owned by Pat and is friends with his Airedale dog Joker.
Collectors Info: Although not common, neither are they that hard to find in both the UK and, to a slightly lesser extent, the USA.
Exmoor Series: The author's most popular books form a loosely based series set on Exmoor. Although they feature some of the same characters, the stories can also be read as stand-alones.
1) SHANK'S PONY (EYRE & SPOTTISWOODE 1946) ILLUSTRATED BY LIONEL EDWARDS SUMMARY: Set during the Second World War. Young Davy Tucker lives in London, though he loves ponies and longs to live in the countryside. When his mother takes ill and his father is off fighting, he is sent to live in Exmoor on a farm near where his father grew up. Although he is sad to leave behind his mother and the cart pony Nobbie whom he also loves, he soon takes to country life like a duck to water. Tragedy then strikes, but through it he is eventually to achieve his dream of living in the country for good with a pony of his own. PONYMAD RATING: 3 HORSESHOES
2) SUITABLE OWNERS (EYRE & SPOTTISWOODE 1948) ILLUSTRATED BY LIONEL EDWARDS SUMMARY: Will Colin find the Exmoor pony of his dreams?
3) WHITE WINTER (EYRE & SPOTTISWOODE 1949) ILLUSTRATED BY LIONEL EDWARDS SUMMARY: A terrible winter comes to Exmoor for both humans and ponies. Based on the real life great blizzard of 1947.
Collectors Info: These are fairly hard to find, especially outside of the UK, and usually more expensive than the Jerry series, as they are considered more collectable due to the Lionel Edwards illustrations. Not often seen with dustjackets but still worth getting without them for the beautiful artwork by Edwards. The first in the series is probably the easiest to find.
1) MAYFLY THE GREY PONY (EYRE & SPOTTISWOODE 1935) ILLUSTRATED BY LIONEL EDWARDS Published in the USA by Charles Scribners Sons in 1935. SUMMARY: After his artist father dies, Tony and his mother and sister Diana must give up their smart London home and move into a crumbling old house on Exmoor. They decide to start up a riding stables and Tony is happy at the idea, especially as he will be able to keep his pony Mayfly. But the stables are not a success. Things look bleak until Tony meets Arthur Carey, an old artist friend of his fathers. Under Arthur's tutelage Tony finds his own talent as an artist. PONYMAD RATING: 3 HORSESHOES
2) RUNAWAY MIKE (DAVIES & LOVAT DICKSON 1936) ILLUSTRATED BY T. IVESTER LLOYD SUMMARY: Mayfly and friend reappear in this story of the circus boy Mike who runs away with a horse and a dog.
Collectors Info: Not common titles, but can be found without a great deal of trouble in the UK - although copies with jackets are more elusive. Mayfly was also published in the USA and is the easiest of the pair to find there. Runaway Mike is harder to find outside the UK and more expensive.
Other Horse & Pony Books:
DEAR BUSYBODY (EYRE & SPOTTIWOODE 1950) ILLUSTRATED BY LIONEL EDWARDS SUMMARY: Historical story set on Exmoor in the late 19th century. A girl from Canada is sent to Somerset on a visit to her aunt and uncle. She becomes the owner of a pony and together with some of the local children hunts a deer poacher.
Collectors Info: Not a common title, but can be found without a great deal of trouble in the UK - although copies with jackets are more elusive. Harder to find and more expensive outside of the UK.
Books about the author:
ELEANOR HELME By Eric Rowlands (HORNER MILL SERVICE 2003) Summary: A must for fans of the author. Biography and bibliography of her works.
Collectors Info: At time of writing not on general release in bookshops. This can only be ordered on-line or bought from Porlock Visitor centre in Somerset. Used copies are rarely seen.