by Laura Crum
Since my eleven year old son is a voracious reader, and he has a horse and loves him, horse books are very high on our priority list. We’ve read quite a few of them over the years, some of them written by authors from our very own blog. So today I want to talk about some of our favorites. And I’m going to start out with our “home” authors.
The first book we read that was written by one of our authors was Linda Benson’s “The Horse Jar”. My kid had seen this book on the sidebar of our blog, and thought it looked interesting. Linda very kindly sent him a signed copy (a big thrill). We read it together, and we both really enjoyed it. The characters were very believable and the story was one that a 9-10 year old could totally relate to. I loved the basic storyline, which shows a child making a very mature, loving, but difficult choice. My son is still very fond of this book.
Then, more recently, Alison came out with “Risky Chance” in the Horse Diaries series (this series is written by different authors, the common elements being the theme—books from a horse’s point of view set in different periods of history—and the excellent illustrations by Ruth Sanderson). My kid had wanted to try these books for a while (they were featured in the Chinaberry catalog—one of our favorite catalogs), so we ordered “Risky Chance.” This one my son read on his own, and reviewed here on the blog. I also read it, and really enjoyed it, particularly the setting (Southern California TB racing during the Depression). At this point my son became a Horse Diaries fan, and Alison very kindly sent us a signed copy of her other Horse Diaries title, “Bell’s Star.” The book is set in New England in the 1800’s and deals with a runaway slave and a Morgan horse-- we both liked that one a lot, too. Again, this was a book my kid read on his own and it kept his interest right until the end. Alison’s knowledge and love of horses really shines in both of these books. Now we’re busy acquiring the rest of the series.
Most recently, I ordered Alison’s book, “Gabriel’s Horses”, because after reading about it on her website, it seemed like it would make a perfect start to doing a “unit” on the Civil War. As a homeschooling mom, I am always looking for books that will provide a good prop for learning about something. And “Gabriel’s Horses” did not disappoint.
Set in Kentucky during the Civil War, the book is about a slave boy who wants to become a jockey. Gabriel is about my own son’s age, and the story painted a vivid portrait of what his life was like. We read the book chapter by chapter, with exercises (provided by me) of mapping the Confederate and Union States…etc. The book was GREAT—really kept both of us interested, gave you the feeling and many facts about the Civil War and slavery, without being too horrifying (which many books—even kid’s books—about this war are, because it was a truly horrifying event in terms of suffering). I recommended it to the teacher who leads our homeschool group, and she is going to read it to the whole group of kids next year. Again, the horse element was very well portrayed.
That covers the children’s books we’ve read so far by authors from the EI blog, though I’m sure we will be reading more. Certainly the second and third books in the Gabriel trilogy, and possibly Linda’s new book, if we ever start reading ebooks or it comes out in paper. So far we read only paper books, but who knows what the future will hold.
We have, of course, read many of the old classics—just finished “Black Beauty”, which is still a great read. Read “The Black Stallion,” which was well liked, and “The Island Stallion”, which I loved as a child, but my kid was not as enthralled by it as I was. We read my personal favorite, “Smoky the Cowhorse,” again, not as big a hit with my kid as it was with me. Maybe he needs to be older. Misty of Chincoteague was well received, also another childhood favorite of mine, Elizabeth Goudge’s “The Little White Horse.” I thought about reading “My Friend Flicka”, but when I reread it myself to preview it, I decided no, it’s just too dark. Maybe in awhile. Same verdict on Steinbeck’s “The Red Pony.”
So, there are a few good kid’s books about horses. Anyone want to chime in with your own favorites?