We Recommend: Horse Books for Girls

Yes, it's time for We Recommend again, which you'll be seeing a lot more of for the next while as we've let something of a backlog develop (sorry everyone!). Anyway, here's where you write in asking for a book recommendation for some young person you know, and we magically come up with the perfect book, and when you guys help out in the comments. Without further ado…

In response to my joyful praise for the most excellent librarian I know, a reader wrote me bemoaning her own misadventures in libraries. Like so:

So I asked for good read-alouds for a 7 year old girl who has recently fallen head over heels for…horses. She had nothing. Nada. (Well, other than to do a subj search in the catalogue, which, obviously, I could have done myself.)
So, never having had a horse phase myself, I just found the only book on the subject I knew the title of, Black Beauty, and took it home. We lasted about  3 pages–a horse had to be put down b/c of a broken leg. And it wasn't euphemized as "put down"–a man got a gun and shot the horse. One sentence, I think. She wouldn't let me finish the chapter even though it was only 2 more sentences.
So, my request: horse readaloud. No horses shot or even maimed. Her teacher read Belle's Journey to them (they are doing a horse study) and she liked that a lot (recounted the ENTIRE plot).

This, I feel, we can do. Right?


I mean, girls and horses. It's famous! It's so big, in fact, that it's hard to know where to begin. This is a read-aloud, so we can skip the "Breyer Stable Mates" who were so important for me and Chestnut when she was really struggling with reading in the beginning. Then there's the Billy and Blaze books, who we really loved…actually (wow, today is the day to link to myself repeatedly, apparently), Blaze might be excellent here, though they're short. But what I really thought of was my older sister, who as a kid couldn't get enough of pioneer country and horses and their wholesome ways. I am talking, of course, about…My Friend Flicka.

However, as I read the wikipedia entry, I must note that while all horses and boys recover, there is the sense that death is near. Plus there is some barbed wire. Pain. Injury. Yikes! OK. Phew. And let us all have a moment to reflect, in relief, that at least they didn't get to the part about Ginger when they were reading Black Beauty.

So here, here is what I am coming up with. Note: the horse gets sick at one point but DOES NOT DIE. Plus, afterwards you can watch the movie.

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It's actually a pretty great story. And the little girl is heroic.

But I think I should really give way to the commenters now. Because there must be something more recent than this. I was a big horse kid, but I only wanted to read nonfiction about them, not so much the stories. Does anyone know the perfect horse read aloud? Tell us in the comments!

16 thoughts on “We Recommend: Horse Books for Girls

  1. What about Misty of Chincoteague? I never read it because I never did the horse thing either, but it is one of my mom’s favorites and she talks about it all the time. Someone should jump in with whether or not horses die here, though… Otherwise I am useless.

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  2. Jessi, you are totally right–Misty is the way to go. Horses die, but that’s because horses die–no one is cruel or heartless–just the opposite. Black Beauty is a toughie, though a great book, but Misty and her derivatives (Sea Star, etc.) are fabulous. I’ll keep thinking.

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  3. I can’t remember if King of the Wind has any outright cruelty or death in it, but I do remember loving this book when I was a girl.

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  4. I had a slight horse obsession growing up. It has probably been 20 years since I’ve read them, but I loved the Misty of Chincoteague books. I do not remember being traumatized by them. I was never able to make it through Black Beauty. I really loved all of the books by Marguerite Henry, King of the Wind, Smoky the Cow Horse, and Mustang: Wild Spirit of the West. I never was crazy about the Black Stallion, but I really like Man O’War by Walter Farley. I also really loved Pam’s Paradise Ranch by Armine Von Tempski, about a girl growing up on a cattle ranch in Maui.

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  5. My 9 yo daughter is horse crazy and loved all of the Misty of Chincoteague books as well. There is also a historical fiction series called Horse Diaries (by various authors…the first title is Horse Diaries #1: Elska) that are written in the voice of the horse and are set in different time periods. The protagonists are young girls and the girls and horses are quite heroic.

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  6. Oh honey. FUNNY YOU SHOULD ASK.
    The mother lodes are here:
    http://www.janebadgerbooks.co.uk/
    and here:
    http://www.ponydom.com/books/index.html
    My picks for great readalouds would be something like:
    KM Peyton, “Fly-by-Night” – an English girl gets her dream pony. Very authentic and sweet. KM Peyton are a husband/wife team and I love their quiet, lucid style. Has sequel, “The Team.”
    Jean Slaughter Doty, “Summer Pony” – sort of the American version of the above. Has sequel, “Winter Pony.”
    Jame Smiley, “The Georges and the Jewels” and “A Good Horse.” A kid works with her Dad, who is a horse trainer in California in the 1960s.
    Elizabeth Goudge, “The Little White Horse” – not actually super-equestrian, but by coincidence I started reading it to my 8yo daughter last night.
    Robin McKinley – “The Hero and the Crown” and “The Blue Sword”. High fantasy, vaguely British India in flavor, with a little bit of racefail but the horse stuff is note-perfect.
    Patricia Leitch, “The Fields of Praise” – impossible to find but one of my favourites as a kid. Really captures the enchantment of horses.
    Don Stanford, “The Horsemasters” – closely based on the author’s experience as a student at the storied Porlock Vale Riding School.
    You could say this is my hobby horse SEE WHAT I DID THERE sigh.

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  7. “National Velvet,” by the way, is just a spectacularly beautiful book, and so is “The Little White Horse.” JK Rowling actually credits the latter as an inspiration.

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  8. Misty of Chincoteague is definitely the place to start. My six-year-old also loves the books of Jessie Haas. She has a series of easy chapter books about Beware the Mare, and also some gorgeous picture books about Nora and her grandparents on a farm in (I think) Vermont. Other easy series that we’ve enjoyed are Cowboy Kate and Cocoa, and the Horse Crazy series set in Australia. I absolutely adored My Friend Flicka when I was young, but that is a story in which all is not rosy so I haven’t yet read it to my daughter. She loved the Black Stallion.

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  9. Yes to anything Marguerite Henry!
    I devoured the Saddle Club books for a while. Horses also feature in some of the Trixie Belden mysteries (recently reissued).
    I vaguely remember a series featuring a girl and a palomino in Arizona or New Mexico…does that ring a bell for anyone?

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  10. The American Girl “Felicity” series was one of my favorites and is in the perfect age range. One of the main storylines is about a horse, and while it’s mistreated some, Felicity saves it and loves it back to health in that plucky, bright-eyed American Girl way. I’ve heard the “Kaya” series is also very horse-centric. By the way, Black Beauty? Still gives me nightmares.

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  11. seconding the Saddle Club series, and the Thoroughbred series…along with many of the others mentioned (Marguerite Henry, Man o’ War, National Velvet, Black Stallion series, etc.).
    Also, Somebody’s Horse–a story about a horse-crazy girl who comes across an abandoned horse while visiting her cousin, and learns about horse care and Western riding. No death, but there are some sources of angst: a bout of colic, and the main character thinking someone is going to take her horse away.

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  12. The Linda Craig mysteries that’s the books about the palomino. Also phantom stallion books are good thoroughbred series is good and saddle club

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