King of the Wind
Marguerite Henry (Juvenile Historical Fiction)
The foal was to be born under a favorable sign—a new moon in a new month—and thus assured strength and speed. While the horseboy, Agba, was asleep, the foal was born and it appeared that indeed Agba’s master was correct for on the foal’s hind heel was a white spot, an emblem of swiftness. Unfortunately, the foal also bore the wheat ear and this foretold of evil. Agba knew this foal was special and he named it Sham, the Arabic word for sun, because its coat was a flaming red-gold. Although orphaned and shunned by the other spring colts, Sham thrived under Agba’s watchful care until one day, one ill-placed foot and one well-placed hoof would forever change their destinies.
Marguerite Henry gives young readers a story detailing the origin of the Godolphin Arabian, one of three stallions that founded the modern Thoroughbred (Darley Arabian and the Byerley Turk being the other two). Part fact and part fiction, this book follows Sham from Morocco to Paris and then finally to London. His life passes through the hands of a sultan, king, carter, Quaker, innkeeper, and earl all the while keeping company with a loyal and mute horseboy and a tomcat named Grimalkin. As King of the Wind is based on historical fact, our story takes place in the early 18th century and Henry stays true to the time period by portraying a harsh but realistic view of how life was for little Agba and Sham. Younger readers, especially those fond of horses, may be uncomfortable reading of Sham’s harsh and unfair treatment, but Henry chooses realism over sentimentality so readers can glean an accurate understanding of Agba and Sham’s daily struggle for survival.
Early in Sham’s life, Agba makes him a promise: “My name is Agba. Ba means “father”. I will be a father to you, Sham, and when I am grown I will ride you before the multitudes. And they will bow before you, and you will be King of the Wind. I promise it.” Henry gives us a beautiful adventure story that brims with friendship, honor, and loyalty and reminds us that any promise worth making is a promise certainly worth keeping.
* Book cover image attributed to www.goodreads.com