Were you one of those children who adored horses? Do you have a child who devours every book on horses that she can get her hands on?
Then you have probably read books by Marguerite Henry.
I didn’t. As a kid, I liked horses. I liked their soulful eyes and soft noses. I appreciated their loyalty to their owners. I liked them. But I didn’t love them. So I passed over all of Marguerite Henry’s works for historical books or mystery series or the nurse series like Sue Barton and Cherry Ames.
Since I like to hunt for vintage books at my library, I noticed King of the Wind. I read it. Now I remember why Black Beauty was the first and only horse book I ever read. I felt so sorry for the stallion, I couldn’t take the sorrow. Fifty years later, my soul hasn’t changed. I almost put down Henry’s Newbery Medal winner because my heart couldn’t stand so much injustice.
Sham, this magnificent bay stallion born to run, and Agba, the stable boy who takes care of him, travel the world in the 1700s. Sham was to be a beautiful gift to the king of France, but by the time he arrives in that country, the ship’s crew has starved the horse into a shadow of himself. The king, a bit insulted by the scrawny gift, assigns Sham to pull a cart.
Overworked and underfed, Sham almost dies. He’s rescued! But shortly after, circumstances place him in dire straits once again.
Spoiler: there is a bittersweet, happy ending.
- Everything that makes for a good story. Heroes, villains, and an ending that may surprise the reader. (I was surprised.)
- Marguerite Henry might be the leading author who can stir the reader with emotion regarding a horse and the person who loves him most.
- Like me, tender hearts may wish to save themselves the tears.
- Published in 1948, the narrative is not terse and to-the-point like modern writing. So acclimate and enjoy!
- What is your opinion of a world that treats people and animals in the way that Sham and Agba were treated?
- Why is the cat important to this story? (I can’t leave out the cat! He’s one of the main characters!)
- Think of several of the minor characters in this story. If you were one of them, how might you have tried to help Sham and Agba?
As I dug a little deeper into the making of this novel, I discovered a tantalizing fact. The story is based on truth! Most thoroughbred horses today who run in the Triple Crown are descended from Sham, a horse who never had the chance to glory in an official race. He became known as the Godolphin Arabian and sired three champions. Those sons have provided the world with centuries of descendants who live for the joy of competition. Man O’ War and Seabiscuit are only two famous examples in recent times.
A quote from the book:
But some animals, like some men, leave a trail of glory behind them. They give their spirit to the place where they have lived, and remain forever a part of the rocks and streams and the wind and sky.
That was Sham.
Yes, I understand why children love to read books about horses.