Sunday, January 13, 2013

Book Review 'King of the Wind' Newbery Award

Newbery Award Winner 1949
It is always interesting how classic books remain pertinent decades after they are written.

This is a historical novel carefully researched by Marguerite Henry. Most of the story in general is verified, some details are under contention. But the author created two stories, one of the horse, and one of the boy. She embellished with cultural and historical details that surprisingly speak to our times more profoundly than when it was written. The boy's religion and status in society ring alarm bells in a modern discussion, even when Henry lays out these details delicately. The reading level can appeal from 4th up through 8th grade.

As an expert author, Henry relates the story without hitting the reader over the head with the great themes it holds. Loyalty, kindness, tenacity. Human and animal rights.

She delicately acquaints us with the little boy who cares for the mare, then the foal (baby horse.) The setting is revealed so expertly the reader is not shocked that we are in surroundings completely new and different than most Americans could imagine. Morocco, 1720's. We don't understand the boy's true circumstances for quite a while, by that time the author has so introduced him that we are forever his defender. She builds up suspense as he travels through to what will eventually be the fate for both him and the horse.

Lots of adventure and ups and downs for this horse and boy, similar to the earlier classic, Black Beauty. But as this involves a boy and a horse in historical context, we of the 21st century have many questions. Why doesn't someone take care of the boy? How would someone get away with treating a horse that way? Didn't the boy have any rights?Where were all the good people? What was the big deal about royalty?

There's Grimalkin to the right.Painting from the era.
Sham's big day. Painting from the era.
The clear prose of Henry's story allows the reader to wonder about the progression of the plot, and the qualities of the characters, even the animals. Maybe especially the animals. I favor Grimalkin. This is an animal story with a happy ending, which is somewhat unusual.

Lovely pen and ink illustrations.
The illustrator is the master, Wesley Dennis.  He also illustrated other outstanding books by Marguerite Henry.

If your young reader likes horse stories, here are a few other recommendations:

1. Many titles by Marguerite Henry, including Misty of Chincoteague, which won a Newbery Honor. I truly enjoyed  Brighty of the Grand Canyon, also.
My gift copy.

 2. Black Beauty by Anna Sewell. The grand classic, narrated by the horse.
Books are a wonderful gift.

3. National Velvet by Enid Bagnold. The movie made in 1944 starred a young Elizabeth Taylor, and is one of the few films I feel lived up to the wonder and depth of the book. A young girl chose to jockey her horse in the famous, dangerous race, the Grand National.
Liz Taylor as Velvet with the Pie.
4. The Black Stallion books by Walter Farley. Alec and the stallion have many adventures and victories.
You can read for quite awhile with this set!

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