Good Horse Books for Kids

by Laura Crum

Since my eleven year old son is a voracious reader, and he has a horse and loves him, horse books are very high on our priority list. We’ve read quite a few of them over the years, some of them written by authors from the Equestrian Ink blog (a blog I have been part of for four years). So today I want to talk about some of our favorites. And I’m going to start out with our “home” authors.
The first book we read that was written by one of our authors was Linda Benson’s “The Horse Jar”. My kid had seen this book on the sidebar of our blog, and thought it looked interesting. Linda very kindly sent him a signed copy (a big thrill). We read it together, and we both really enjoyed it. The characters were very believable and the story was one that a 9-10 year old could totally relate to. I loved the basic storyline, which shows a child making a very mature, loving, but difficult choice. My son is still very fond of this book.
Then, more recently, Alison Hart came out with “Risky Chance” in the Horse Diaries series (this series is written by different authors, the common elements being the theme—books from a horse’s point of view set in different periods of history—and the excellent illustrations by Ruth Sanderson). My kid had wanted to try these books for a while (they were featured in the Chinaberry catalog—one of our favorite catalogs), so we ordered “Risky Chance.” This one my son read on his own, and reviewed here on the blog. I also read it, and really enjoyed it, particularly the setting (Southern California TB racing during the Depression). At this point my son became a Horse Diaries fan, and Alison very kindly sent us a signed copy of her other Horse Diaries title, “Bell’s Star.” The book is set in New England in the 1800’s and deals with a runaway slave and a Morgan horse– we both liked that one a lot, too. Again, this was a book my kid read on his own and it kept his interest right until the end. Alison’s knowledge and love of horses really shines in both of these books. Now we’re busy acquiring the rest of the series.
Most recently, I ordered Alison’s book, “Gabriel’s Horses”, because after reading about it on her website, it seemed like it would make a perfect start to doing a “unit” on the Civil War. As a homeschooling mom, I am always looking for books that will provide a good prop for learning about something. And “Gabriel’s Horses” did not disappoint.
Set in Kentucky during the Civil War, the book is about a slave boy who wants to become a jockey. Gabriel is about my own son’s age, and the story painted a vivid portrait of what his life was like. We read the book chapter by chapter, with exercises (provided by me) of mapping the Confederate and Union States…etc. The book was GREAT—really kept both of us interested, gave you the feeling and many facts about the Civil War and slavery, without being too horrifying (which many books—even kid’s books—about this war are, because it was a truly horrifying event in terms of suffering). I recommended it to the teacher who leads our homeschool group, and she is going to read it to the whole group of kids next year. Again, the horse element was very well portrayed.
That covers the children’s books we’ve read so far by authors from the EI blog, though I’m sure we will be reading more. Certainly the second and third books in the Gabriel trilogy, and possibly Linda’s new book, if we ever start reading ebooks or it comes out in paper. So far we read only paper books, but who knows what the future will hold.
We have, of course, read many of the old classics—just finished “Black Beauty”, which is still a great read. Read “The Black Stallion,” which was well liked, and “The Island Stallion”, which I loved as a child, but my kid was not as enthralled by it as I was. We read my personal favorite, “Smoky the Cowhorse,” again, not as big a hit with my kid as it was with me. Maybe he needs to be older. Misty of Chincoteague was well received, also another childhood favorite of mine, Elizabeth Goudge’s “The Little White Horse.” I thought about reading “My Friend Flicka”, but when I reread it myself to preview it, I decided no, it’s just too dark. Maybe in awhile. Same verdict on Steinbeck’s “The Red Pony.”
So, there are a few good kid’s books about horses. Anyone want to chime in with your own favorites?


10 Responses

  1. I read MY FRIEND FLICKA at about that age, and loved it. As I still do–also the other 2, which I read at not much older.

    • Merry–I think Flicka is a good book, but I remember reading it at about 11 and feeling all these dark, disturbing undertones that I didn’t understand. Though the book has a “happy” ending, it is a very sad book overall. Reading it as an adult, I may understand the undertones better, but I still find them disturbing. That domineering father makes me grit my teeth to this day–I have known a lot of men like him (I hang around with real cowboys and ranchers, remember) and I know the harm they do first hand. Particularly to a gentle, sensitive soul like the son. No, my kid doesn’t need to read that book just now. It is well written–I’ll agree to that.

  2. Let me know when you get to the “Kids’ Science” category, Laura — I’ll be ready! Meanwhile, lucky kids to have you.

    • Thanks, Camille, I will call on you. Let’s see, science books I loved as a kid (and have read to my kid) would include “The Mad Scientist’s Club” and all its sequels. Any other suggestions?

      • One of my favorites is “Girls Think of Everything” (will have to look up the author), which I think is important for boys to read! Also, the whole “Who was . . . ” series, pub. by Grosset. Then, crossing lines, the great true story of Amelia Earhart and Eleanor Roosevelt and their night in the air:

        I’ll stop for now!

      • Thank you, Camille. I will check into those. Your comment inspired me to remember two favorite books of mine from childhood–one well known, the other not so much–that deal with traveling through space and time. Just ordered both for my kid (A Wrinkle in Time and Diamond in the Window).

  3. KING OF THE WIND, by Marguerite Henry, is a wonderful book about a mute horseboy and the stallion he bonds to at the colt’s birth and later accompanies as a gift from the sultan of Morocco to the boy king of France. The miseries they go through, beginning with the crooked ship’s captain who starved the horses entrusted to his care, end with jubilation when the once-fleet stallion sires colts who race as he once could. This gripping story of the Godolphin Arabian, the ancester of English Thoroughbreds, speaks to boys your son’s age, but also worked when my 60-year-old adult literacy learner read it this year.

    Another of my growing-up favorites was THE GOOD MASTER, by Kate Seredy. Set on a horse ranch in Hungary when horses were how you got places, it tells how Jancsi’s world is invaded by his city tomboy cousin Kate, and how she too learns to understand country living.

    • Thanks, Sara. I loved King of the Wind as a child–great suggestion. And several of our friends just read The Good Master. I think we will read that one next.

  4. I particularly like the two Terri Farley horse series The Phantom Stallion and Wild Horse Island, but my all time favorite is Smoky The Cowhorse by Will James.

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