Vulpes Libris

A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.

Marguerite Henry:Horse Stories and More

king of the wind
When I was about 8 years old, I found a book in the school library about a beautiful stallion and the little orphan boy who took care of him. The story began in Arabia and had the magical title of King of the Wind. That was my introduction to Marguerite Henry’s horse books. It was also my introduction to Islam, as the novel began in the month of Ramadan. A much better way to learn of that religion than today’s children hearing terrorist propaganda. Through her books, I learned about history, from Colonial America, Georgian England, the Gold Rush and the rescue of the Lippizzaner Stallions in WW2. Not only was there lots of horses in barns, fields and race tracks, but there were other cultures and lifestyles, all of them so drastically different from my dysfunctional family. When I picked up one of Ms. Henry’s books, my stress and sickliness would be swept away to the desert sands or Oklahoma prairies. Instead of arguments, I’d be riding Brighty, the donkey, through the Grand gold
It wasn’t only the writing that made the books so enjoyable, it was also the delightful artwork by Wesley Dennis. His wash and charcoal illustrations were sprinkled liberally throughout each book, sometimes just a tiny drawing of a foal frolicking such would end a chapter. The horses always had flowing tails and tossed manes and the shiny coats, Mr. Dennis really knew his subjects. I must admit to being upset when I see modern reprints of the books with someone else’s artwork, it seems sacrilegious.
I never knew anything about Marguerite Henry apart from her books and have never looked into it, even as an adult. It seemed enough to love her work. I do recall hearing of her death on CNN in the 1990’s and crying. A few years ago, I found her Album of Horses at an antique show and was happily surprised to see it autographed as well. It stands on a shelf in my bedroom, among my most treasured books.

This post was initially included in When We Were Cubs and has been modified to fit this Theme Week.

Jackie Has painted many dogs and horses, but none have ever been as nice as the ones by Wesley Dennis.You can see some of her other subjects here.

5 comments on “Marguerite Henry:Horse Stories and More

  1. Clarissa Aykroyd
    March 18, 2013

    Lovely post! As with many little girls, I think, King of the Wind sealed my fate around age 7 for becoming horse-obsessed. I related to a lot of your post. (It was also the first that I had heard about Ramadan, though perhaps not Islam.) I think I read most or all of her books and loved them. I agree about Dennis’s illustrations, too. I’m not sure if I own any of them, though – I constantly checked them out of the public and school libraries but I don’t think I got around to buying any or many.

    Black Gold and White Stallion of Lipizza were two of my other favourites. A few years ago when I went to the Spanish Riding School in Vienna, I did a stables tour and nearly had a joyful heart attack when I saw Maestoso Borina’s name on a plaque. (I knew already that he was a real horse but it was still a massive thrill.)

    I still love children’s books but I have to admit I haven’t returned to Marguerite Henry’s the way I have with some other old favourites. I’m not sure why. I was mainly reading them as a child in the 80s and early 90s. I’m not sure if I even heard about her death at the time when it happened. I now live in the UK and I don’t think she is very well known over here. I may have to return to those books some day.

  2. Jackie
    March 18, 2013

    That was a lovely comment, Ms. Aykroyd, thanks for posting it. And I’m so envious of you getting to visit the Spanish Riding School in Vienna.

  3. whatmeread
    March 19, 2013

    I loved all of Marguerite Henry’s books when I was a kid!

  4. Cynthia
    March 19, 2013

    I never thought of learning history through those books. An excellent point. I read those books so long ago. You make me want to revisit them, as well as share with young relatives. 😉

  5. kirstyjane
    March 21, 2013

    I am ashamed to say I had forgotten about Henry, but the memories came flooding back with your post. Really glad this has been revived for Marguerite week and, if I didn’t thank you at the time, thank you so much again for writing it.

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  • (The header image is from Aesop's Fables, illustrated by Francis Barlow (1666), and appears courtesy of the Digital and Multimedia Center at the Michigan State University Libraries.)
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