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Sunday
Feb022014

MBE for KM Peyton

as published in the Scattered Authors Society Newsletter

There weren't many authors included in the New Year's Honours 2014. Anthony Horowitz got an OBE as an 'author and screenwriter', Sandi Toksvig got hers as 'comedienne, presenter and author'. Worthy recipients both of them but the citation that brought real pleasure came further down in the MBEs: Mrs Kathleen Wendy Herald Peyton. Children's Author. For services to Children's Literature. (London)

Kathy Peyton was born Kathleen Herald in 1929 and completed her first novel at the age of 9. Her first published novel was Sabre, the Horse from the Sea (1948) with illustrations by Lionel Edwards. I remember it with joy from my own childhood. She went to art school in Manchester where she met and married Mike Peyton, “the world's greatest yachting cartoonist”. The illustrations to Fly-By Night (1968) reveal Kathy as no mean artist herself and the 'M' in her writing name recognises the help Mike gave her with the plots of her novels.

There are over fifty K M Peyton novels – the majority of them about horses. When I heard someone describe her as writing “pony books” I was surprised. There are stories about schools, stories about sailing, a brief series set in Roman Britain. I could give them to all of my own children to read – boys and girls, horse-lovers, non-horselovers. It's more than subject matter, however. The “pony books” include an impressive variety of characters and credible situations. The main characters are allowed to grow, the generations interact and learn from one another, as do the humans and the animals. The protagonists face challenges that are more significant than winning or not winning the red rosette.

K.M. Peyton has won several of literature's rosettes – the Carnegie prize for The Edge of the Cloud (1969), the Guardian prize for the entire Flambards trilogy and she was runner up for the Carnegie several times in the 1960s. In 1978 the Flambards trilogy was adapted for television by Yorkshire TV and I remain eternally grateful to her and actress Christine McKenna for coming to open my tiny bookshop in Ingatestone, Essex. The queue for the signing stretched down the High Street. I most recently met Kathy Peyton just before Christmas this year at the opening of a nautical pop-up shop in Maldon, Essex. Mike has lost his sight and cannot draw but she was as involved and as cheerful as ever and is writing a new book. I felt inspired. (JJ)

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