We did a horse unit study last Spring, so this is not a new interest on Miss M’s part. But of course there are so many great horse-themed books out there it may take awhile to get to all of them. Black Beauty was a read-aloud I considered last year. But somehow I had gotten the impression it was a really sad (or even depressing) book, so I didn’t end up selecting it. So far this school year, my bed time read alouds with Miss M have all been history related, mostly due to her desire to keep selecting historical titles tied into our American History studies.
After our last read-aloud, Miss M asked that we picked something unrelated to American history next. After a brief attempt at a fantasy book that neither of us were very keen on, we decided to go for historical fiction of a different sort than we have been reading. I chose Black Beauty from my list of potential non-US-history read-alouds for the year.
In case you aren’t familiar with the plot of this classic story, Black Beauty is told from the perspective of a horse in 19th century England. Black Beauty gets his start in life as a colt on farm where he trained and treated kindly, after which he is sold to a gentleman named Squire Gordon. The Squire and his employees also treat Black Beauty very well, but when the Squires wife falls ill, the horses all must be sold. Thus begins a long line of owners for Black Beauty ranging from another nobleman to cab owners to a corn dealer.
Sometimes Black Beauty is treated well, other times he is ill used or treated harshly. But in all cases he maintains what you might call “good character.” He remembers what he was taught in his youth, and always does his best to work hard and not return evil-for-evil. There are some difficult moments in Black Beauty, which may be where it got its reputation for being a sad book in some ways. Animal cruelty is definitely present in this book, and a few horses (other than the main character) do die through the course of the story. But moral lessons are present throughout and I think the author’s hope was that by telling this story of how horses were treated, that perhaps people might think twice about how they treat their horses or other animals.
Miss M and I both definitely enjoyed this book — she told me it may be her favorite read-aloud so far of the 2012-2013 school year!
We continued with the horse theme but also picked up with our current historical time period in US History (roughly the time from the end of the Revolutionary War through the War of 1812) with Justin Morgan Had a Horse. This 1946 Newberry Honor book begins shortly after the Revolutionary War, and ends sometime after the War of 1812. It’s a fictionalized account of the horse that was the foundation sire for the Morgan Horse breed, one of the first breeds to be developed in the United States.
Henry’s story opens with schoolmaster Justin Morgan and his young pupil Joel taking a long journey from Vermont to Massachusetts to visit a man who owes money to Mr. Morgan. Morgan’s friend can’t pay back the loan in cash, but offers two horses instead. Little Bub was so little that Morgan hardly wants him at first. Joel, on the other hand, just knows that Little Bub would grow up to be a special horse.
Time proves Joel to be correct. Justin Morgan gives Joel the opportunity to gentle this special horse. Little Bub may be tiny, but he can pull and race better than the best of them. Joel hopes to some day buy Little Bub for himself – but the road to owning the horse he loves turns out to be much longer than he expected.
Justin Morgan Had a Horse is the story of a famous horse, but it’s also a coming-of-age story as Joel grows into manhood, and never gives up his dream of bringing Little Bub home to his own stable.
This was another book that both Miss M and I really enjoyed. It was a quick read — one that Miss M could have easily accomplished on her own. But I’m glad we shared it together, as I am putting it at or near the top of my list of favorite read-alouds for this school year!
I’m linking up with Read-Aloud Thursday at Hope is the Word!