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
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Chosen by a Horse
Susan Richards (Memoir)
She was only five years old when she was given her first horse. Her grandmother had given it to her and its name was Bunty. From that moment on, Susan Richards’s love for horses would be equaled only by her love for books and writing. Horses, like books, were Susan’s escape from a world filled with abuse, betrayal, and loss. For the first time in her memory, her life now was happy on her farm with her three horses. But on a cold March day, Susan received an urgent call from the SPCA asking for emergency foster homes for a number of abused race horses. Susan didn’t hesitate to heed the call. When she arrived, how could she ever have known that a gentle and lame horse named Lay Me Down would not only choose Susan to be her rescuer, but would ultimately be the one that would rescue Susan.
Chosen by a Horse is an emotional and loving memoir about two broken and neglected souls who miraculously found each other. Susan describes Lay Me Down’s ability to trust and love again to be far easier than her own by writing, “Unlike me, Lay Me Down seemed to feel no rancor. In spite of everything, she was open and trusting of people, qualities I decidedly lacked…What exactly was it that enabled an abused animal, for lack of a better word, to love again?” Susan’s struggle to commit and trust was clearly detailed throughout the book. Through all of her emotional battles, she couldn’t have asked for nor gotten a better mentor than Lay Me Down. Her quiet faith and hope would inspire Susan to take another chance and to trust in another…even if it meant getting hurt all over again.
You don’t have to be a horse-lover to appreciate this book and its message of second chances, survival, and healing. Anyone who has ever opened their home and heart to an animal will be touched, moved, and inspired by this heartbreakingly beautiful and compassionate story. “In the steady gaze of the horse shines a silent eloquence that speaks of love and loyalty, strength and courage. It is the window that reveals to us how willing is his spirit, how generous is his heart.”—Author Unknown. Susan Richards heard the silent words spoken by a broken horse and it was those words that helped heal her broken heart. How blessed was she to be chosen by a horse.
*Book cover image attributed to www.amazon.com
The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls
Anton Disclafani (Adult Fiction)
It’s 1930 and America is in the midst of the Great Depression. The southern wealthy send their girls to the Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls, an elite equestrienne boarding school located in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. For 15-year old Thea Atwell however, her stay is more punishment than privilege—a repercussion of “the mess” that would impact the lives of those closest to her. With its established social hierarchy and strict moral culture, the Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls forces Thea, for the first time in her life, to undertake girlhood friendships and deal with rival animosities.
To say this book was disappointing is an understatement. Just shy of 400 pages, it was a futile investment of my time and emotions. Thea is a girl incapable of making good life choices. Although we could easily attribute this to her age and being raised in near total social isolation, we still can’t overlook the fact that at nearly every moral and ethical juncture, she ignores her better instincts and chooses the path that leads to her own self-fulfillment and pleasure—regardless of the consequences. Very seldom does she bear any responsibility for her actions or show the slightest bit of remorse. Unfortunately, the adults in this book don’t fare any better, although the reasons behind some of their decisions (which seem excessive, cruel, or just simply foolish at the time) are explained toward the end of the book. By this time, it is much too late for the reader to scrounge up any vestige of interest or sympathy for these characters.
I’ve noticed this book appearing on several 2018 summer reading lists. Between an unrepentant main character and an unmercifully long story devoid of any moral lessons, this book is better left in the stable than taken to the beach.
*Book cover image attributed to www.goodreads.com