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.
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.
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.
Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand.