Evalina has recently become quite enamored of horses. Doesn't every little girl go through that at about 8? For her birthday, my mother got her some books involving horses.
Living in Vermont, where the Morgan horse is our state animal, I thought a good start to the horse books would be Justin Morgan Had a Horse, about the first Morgan Horse (of course slightly fictionalized...)
The Story: School teacher and song master, Justin Morgan travels from his home in Vermont to Springfield, Massachusetts, in order to collect a debt owed to him from a farmer. The farmer did not have money to give him, but instead gave him a stout young foal, Ebinezer. A small runt of a foal named Little Bub followed along, and the farmer decided to throw him into the bargain. Young Joel Goss, who was traveling with Morgan, fell instantly in love with the little foal. He took it upon himself to gentle him, continuing in this endeavor even after they got back to Vermont and Joel was taken in as an apprentice at the mill. He worked to gentle Little Bub after his night school lessons, and they formed a wonderful rapport. When the foal was grown, the school teacher rented him out as a work horse. It turned out that, although smaller than other work horses, he had a strength and speed that could not be matched. He won a race against some fancy Thoroughbreds, and became famous throughout Vermont. After Justin Morgan's death, Little Bub, who became known as the Justin Morgan horse, was traded all over Vermont and Joel lost track of him. Finally, after he was a grown man, and after he had worked in the army as a horse caretaker, he found Little Bub again and was able to make him his own. When President Monroe came to Vermont, the Justin Morgan horse caught even his eye. Little Bub became the father of the Morgan horse breed.
The Good: The descriptions of the horse are wonderful. The chapters are short and contain some exciting moments. Joel's love and devotion for Little Bub is palpable. You root for the little horse, and for his reunion with his old friend. The descriptions of Vermont at that time, and of the Battle of Plattsburg in particular, are really well done.
The Bad: I can't think of much that is bad, except perhaps that it is "based on a true story," and not completely factual about the origins of the Morgan horse breed. But, that's minor. It's a really good story.
The Verdict: I can recommend this to any young horse lover. Amazon's age recommendation is 9-12. Evalina, at 8, had no troubles with it. It is not very long (less than 200 pages) and is a pretty quick read. Anyone who reads it will probably end up wanting to know more about the Morgan horse. (I anticipate we'll make a trip to the Morgan Horse Museum this summer..