The Colt From the Dark Forest by Anna Belle Loken

Horse books are not quite as popular these days as they were when I was a child growing up in West Texas. I certainly knew a lot of girls when I was in junior high school who were obsessed with horses and horse stories. They were all planning to become veterinarians or to raise horses when they grew up. I wonder if any of them did.

Published in 1959 by Lothrop, Lee and Shepherd as “A World Famous Horse Story Selection”, The Colt From the Dark Forest, set in Norway, tells the story of a boy and his beloved colt, Rouen. The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books in February 1960 described the story:

“Karl finds a colt in the forest, and the neighbor to whom it belongs says that the boy may keep the newborn animal. Father [says] that the colt must go when its food
becomes a financial burden; Karl finds one way and then another of keeping the colt he loves. A not-unusual horse story, but impressive in the Norwegian background details and enjoyable for the easy writing style.”

Indeed, the plot itself isn’t terribly “unusual”, but the details of the setting and the vivid portrayal of a boy’s longing for a horse of his own make the tale come alive. Horse-loving children, and anyone interested in stories from Scandinavia, Norway in particular, will enjoy this gentle tale of a boy and his beloved pet. I certainly did, and I’m not even a horsey sort of person.

My favorite horse story is still Black Beauty by Anna Sewall. And here’s a list of some other favorite horse books most of which I have in my library:

Billy and Blaze by C.W. Anderson (with many sequels). For younger readers these picture books about a boy and his horse are a delight.

Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry (with many sequels and spin-offs).

Justin Morgan Had a Horse by Marguerite Henry.

The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis. The talking horses Bree and Twin guide two children to Narnia and the North. Some people like this one best of all the Narnia series, and others hate its negative depiction of Arabic-like people, the Calormenes. I think it’s great.

National Velvet by Enid Bagnold. A young British girl named Velvet wins a horse in raffle and then enters it in the Grand National Steeplechase.

My Friend Flicka by Mary O’Hara. A boy’s parents give him the responsibility of training and caring for a colt in hopes of teaching him to mature—and it works.

The Black Stallion by Walter Farley. An Arabian horse and a boy are stranded on an island together. There are lots of Black Stallion books, and I know girls who are or were determined to read them all.

Smoky the Cowhorse by Will James. Smoky is the quintessential cowboy’s horse in this Newbery award-winning story of ranch life.

Come On, Seabiscuit by Ralph Moody. Nonfiction for children about the subject of Ms. Hillenbrand’s adult tome, Seabiscuit.

War Horse by Michael Morpurgo.

The Blind Colt and Blind Outlaw both by Glen Rounds. I read both of these back when I was in junior high or elementary school. Good stories about the survival of a blind horse in the wild.

Paint the Wind by Pam Munoz Ryan.

Flambards by K.M. Peyton. This one is the beginning of a series about horsey people and English country life and romance and family drama and the early twentieth century. It would make a good Downton Abbey-style miniseries, I think. It’s more young adult than it is middle grade, since the protagonist, Christina, is a young adult herself and becomes “romantically involved” with young men.

For adults:
Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand.

1959: Events and Inventions

January 2, 1959. President Fulgencio Batista of Cuba flees the country to take refuge in the Dominican Republic, as rebels take over the government of Cuba in a coup. The new president of Cuba is Dr. manuel Urrutia, but rebel leader Fidel Castro holds the power in the new government in his position as premier.

'Fidel cor 07' photo (c) 2011, Luiz Fernando Reis - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/January 3, 1959. Alaska becomes the 49th and largest state in the United States.

April 19, 1959. The Dalai Lama, Tibet’s spiritual leader, finds refuge in India after fleeing Lhasa, the capital of Tibet. Chinese troops have put down a rebellion in Tibet that was an attempt to wrest Tibetan independence from the Chinese Communist government in Beijing. The Dalia Lama left Tibet secretly in March and traveled over the mountains by yak into India.

June 3, 1959. Singapore becomes a self-governing crown colony of Britain with Lee Kuan Yew as Prime Minister.

July, 1959. The Australian airline Quantas makes its first flight across the Pacific from Sydney to the U.S.

August 21, 1959. Hawaii becomes the 50th state in the United States.

'The dark side of the Moon (Next to the Moon - Apollo 16)' photo (c) 2007, Sergio Calleja (Life is a trip) - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/September 25, 1959. The prime minister of Ceylon (Sri Lanka), Simon Bandaranaike, dies from his wounds after being shot by a Buddhist monk.

October 7, 1959. A Soviet space probe sends back the first-ever photographs of the dark side of the moon.

December 1, 1959. Twelve countries, including the United States and the Soviet Union, sign an agreement not to claim any part of Antarctica for themselves. Military bases and the dumping of nuclear waste in Antarctica are banned by the treaty. However, scientists of all nationalities will be allowed free access to the continent to conduct experiments and research in the areas climate, geology, wildlife, and other subjects.

December, 1959. Archbishop Markarios, leader of the Greek Orthodox Church, becomes the first president of the new republic of Cyprus. Cyprus gained its independence from the United Kingdom in August, 1959.

100 Movies of Summer: North by Northwest (1959)

Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Writer: Ernest Lehman
Starring: Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint, James Mason, and Martin Landau.

Karate Kid says: The movie had a fairly interesting plot, but I didn’t like it that much because it didn’t confuse me. I thought it was predictable.

Betsy-Bee says: The movie wasn’t really scary, but it got my attention when the suspenseful parts came.

Z-baby says: It was about a guy getting mistaken for somebody else. He got drugged and arrested, and they were chasing him.

Mom says: I like North by Northwest because I like Cary Grant. And some of the scenes are unforgettable: Roger Thornhill (Cary Grant) running through the corn fields to get away from the crop duster assassin, Thornhill and Eve Kendall climbing around on Mt. Rushmore, the flirting on the train and the meeting in the woods.

Some lovely dialog, too:

Thornhill: In the world of advertising, there’s no such thing as a lie. There’s only expedient exaggeration.

Roger Thornhill: The moment I meet an attractive woman, I have to start pretending I have no desire to make love to her.
Eve Kendall: What makes you think you have to conceal it?
Roger Thornhill: She might find the idea objectionable.
Eve Kendall: Then again, she might not.

Roger Thornhill: What’s wrong with men like me?
Eve Kendall: They don’t believe in marriage.
Roger Thornhill: I’ve been married twice.
Eve Kendall: See what I mean?

Roger Thornhill: I don’t like the games you play, Professor.
The Professor: War is hell, Mr. Thornhill. Even when it’s a cold one.
Roger Thornhill: If you fellows can’t whip the VanDamm’s of this world without asking girls like her to bed down with them and probably never come back, perhaps you should lose a few cold wars.
The Professor: I’m afraid we’re already doing that.

IMDB link for North By Northwest
Screen shot gallery for North by Northwest.
Buy North by Northwest at Amazon.

100 Movies of Summer: Anatomy of a Murder (1959)

Director: Otto Preminger
Writer: Screenplay adapted by Wendell Mayes from the novel by John D. Voelker
Starring: Jimmy Stewart, Lee Remick, Ben Gazzara, Eve Arden, Arthur O’Connell, George C. Scott

Mom says: The actors in this movie were of particular interest:

Jimmy Stewart is always good. The unassuming, but brilliant, country lawyer who outsmarts the big city sophisticates has become a cliche, but my man Stewart does the role with panache and credibility.

Lee Remick plays a beautiful and enigmatic young wanton, Laura Manion, and she has the allure to pull it off. She may be one of the most beautiful actresses I’ve ever seen. She was offered the role after first choice Lana Turner had a disagreement with director Otto Preminger.

Duke Ellington did the musical score for the movie, and he makes a cameo appearance.

George C. Scott plays prosecuting attorney, Claude Dancer. (Isn’t that a great name for a prosecutor? I wonder if it’s from the novel.) I couldn’t place him. I knew I knew him, but in this movie he’s so young. I just didn’t associate him with grizzled old Patton.

Ben Gazzara is, of course, Paul Bryan, the fugitive in Run for Your Life. In Anatomy of a Murder, Gazzara is Lt. Frederick Manion, on trial for shooting the man who raped his lovely young wife. He’s not a sympathetic character.

The movie keeps you guessing to the end. Did he or didn’t he? Was he justified? Was he insane? I thought it was a very cynical movie. Nothing is as it seems. No one can really be trusted. Defendants don’t really get exonerated as they do in Perry Mason, but rather they get off on a technicality or a mistaken doubt on the part of the jury.

Maybe that’s the way the world really is, but I prefer tales of innocence vindicated or guilt revealed and punished. I can see why it’s a good movie. Lee Remick, especially, gave a brilliant performance. The story reminded me of the perennially popular novels of John Grisham, right down to the jaded view of justice and the courtroom drama. But Grisham is more hopeful somehow.

The only hopeful thing about this movie was Jimmy Stewart’s indefatigable and irrepressible attitude. You just can’t keep a good man down.

I read the first chapter of Anatomy of a Murder by (Judge) John D. Voelker here. I might like to read the rest of it someday and compare it to the movie.

Link to Anatomy of a Murder at IMDB.
Buy Anatomy of a Murder at Amazon.

Carol Kendall and Else Holmelund Minarik

The Gammage Cup was published in 1959. The story of five non-conformist Minnipins who become unlikely heroes probably hit a nerve in the non-conformist sixties, but it’s still a great story. The Periods, stodgy old conservatives with names such as Etc. and Geo., are wonderful parodies of those who are still caught up in the forms and have forgotten the meanings. And Muggles, Mingy, Gummy, Walter the Earl, and Curley Green, the Minnipins who don’t quite fit in and who paint their doors colors other than green, are wonderful examples of those pesky artistic/scientific types who live just outside the rules of polite society. One of them, Muggles I think, isn’t consciously a nonconformist nor an artist; she just gets caught up in the adventures of the others and finds out that she, too, has her own desires and dreams and talents. I loved The Gammage Cup by Carol Kendall (b. September 13, 1917) when I was a child, and I still remember images and ideas from it. For instance, I’ve always had a desire to paint my front door red or orange or yellow. And I sort of like being different–sometimes just for the sake of difference.
Today is also the birthday of Else Holmelund Minarik, author of the Little Bear stories for beginning readers. What is your favorite Little Bear story? I really like A Kiss for Little Bear in which Little Bear’s grandmother gets some friends to deliver a kiss to Little Bear. The kiss unfortunately gets “all mixed-up” when a pair of lovestruck skunks keeps exchanging the kiss instead of delivering it, but everything turns out all right in the end. I also like the quote from Little Bear’s grandfather when Little Bear suggests that Grandfather might be tired and need a rest. “Me–tired? How can you make me tired? I’m never tired,” says Grandfather, just before he falls asleep in his lawn chair. Then, there’s the story of how Little Bear visits the moon and comes back in time for supper. Oh, yes, and I love Little Bear’s Friend about Little Bear’s friendship with Emily. Little Bear is about as fun and as profound as Frog and Toad. Who ever said that children’s books were boring or unchallenging? They have to be better than adult books so that we can enjoy reading them over and over again until they’re memorized.