Today, May 6th, is the 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby, undoubtedly the most iconic horse race of American history. The entire day will be filled with celebrations across Kentucky, and dreams will be made–and shattered–on the track. And if you’re anything like me, your childhood dreams were filled with horse adventures, too. Enjoy these classic novels about our beloved four-legged beasts!
1. Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
Written from the title character’s point of view, this “autobiography of a horse” is sometimes painful to read. Beauty is sold by his owners into a life of hard labor, but in the end proves that his spirit cannot be dampened. It’s a tear-jerker, though, so be warned.
2. Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry
Henry’s tale of a wild Chincoteague pony, Phantom, her gentle foal, Misty, and the two children who dream of having her for their very own has delighted generations of young readers. For further reading pleasure, check out her two additional Chincoteague books, Stormy: Misty’s Foal and Sea Star!
3. Man O’ War by Walter Farley
Farley, probably one of the foremost authors of “horse” novels, takes facts from the life of this famous racehorse and weaves them into a beautiful and touching picture of what it was like to love, and be loved, by this equine hero.
4. National Velvet by Enid Bagnold
Bagnold’s story of a little girl’s dream of owning a horse and an unwanted “raffle prize” horse who managed to win the Grand National steeplechase is a fun, lighthearted read (it might be a good followup to the heavy Black Beauty if you need cheering up) to please all!
5. My Friend Flicka by Mary O’Hara
Nine year old Ken falls in love with Flicka, a yearling he sees on his family’s horse ranch in Wyoming. O’Hara offers a beautiful story of a relationship between a wild horse and the boy who must tame her.
6. Billy and Blaze by C.W. Anderson
Anderson’s popular Billy and Blaze series is great for young readers; his stories of the adventures (sometimes misadventures!) of the titular characters are easy, but highly engaging reads!
7. The Black Stallion by Walter Farley
Here we have it: the horse book to end all horse books. Farley’s tale of a shipwrecked boy and wild horse and the deep love that they forge together has become one of the most widely read horse books of all time. He continued on to create a series around “The Black,” the wild Arabian turned champion, and Alex, his owner and friend.
So, enjoy the Derby today, of course, but promise me you’ll pick up one of these classics to enjoy and share with your children, too!
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