I was one of those girls who really, reeeeaally loved horses in fourth, fifth and sixth grade. I took riding lessons, owned a whole stable full of Breyer horses, and drew pictures of horses all over my notebooks. And then, in sixth grade, my two younger sisters went horse-crazy. I was immediately cured.
Still, horse stories had been a huge part of my reading, and there are a few books that have stuck with me. Some of them were okay, but others were wonderful. Some at the high end of the scale included Misty of Chincoteague (I still have my Breyer Misty), Can I Get There by Candlelight?, Little Vic…and The Black Stallion, by Walter Farley.
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Alec Ramsey is on a ship, heading to New York after visiting his uncle in India for several months. At one of the ports of call, he notices the most beautiful black horse he’s ever seen being loaded onto the ship. The horse is skittish, and not too happy about an ocean voyage.
Alec, a horse lover, visits the horse every day during the trip, bringing him lumps of sugar whenever he can. The horse doesn’t come up to him, Alec has to leave the sugar on a ledge of the make-shift stall. Still, once or twice the black horse looks at him, and Alec thinks he’s the most perfect creature that ever existed.
When a storm hits, and passengers and crew are told to take to the lifeboats and abandon ship, Alec watches as the groom caring for the black horse falls overboard and vanishes. Standing on the deck in the middle of the raging storm, Alec knows that there’s no one else who will remember the magnificent horse below the decks. Determined to save him, Alec goes below and frees the horse, only to be knocked overboard by the maddened creature’s dash for the water and escape. Alec thinks quickly and grabs the rope trailing from the horse’s bridle, and is tugged through the water after the horse, away from the sinking ship and the lifeboats.
Boy and horse end up on a deserted island, with no one but each other for company. Will both survive? Can Alec forge a new friendship with the wild black stallion? If rescue ever does come, will Alec be able to save his new-found companion as well as himself? And what would a city boy do with a magnificent black stallion in New York if they were to be rescued?
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Originally published in 1941, the story of Alec and The Black has never gone out of print. While it’s a story of a challenging friendship, it’s also a survival story, a horse story, and a sports story. Every kid who has ever loved horses should read this remarkable adventure.
Walter Farley wrote twenty-one books after The Black Stallion about The Black’s offspring and competitors. Besides The Black Stallion, my favorites were The Black Stallion Mystery (Alec and The Black end up in Arabia, trying to solve the mystery of colts that look exactly like The Black), The Black Stallion Revolts (Alec loses both The Black and his memory in a plane crash–will they ever be reunited?) and The Black Stallion and Satan (which I can’t summarize without telling a lot about other books in the series…let’s just say that Alec has a big decision to make, and forest fires are scary.) I read through the entire series, even after I gave up on horses. Walter Farley died in 1989, and his son Steven continued the family tradition by adding a few other titles to the Black Stallion series. Walter also wrote several other books not related to The Black; still, all but two featured horses.
The book was even made into a movie in 1979, which did well at the box office. We have the DVD of The Black Stallion, which isn’t quite as good as the book (then again, what movie ever is?), but it’s still a good, solid choice to watch. The scenery is breathtaking, and the excitement will keep you on the edge of your seat.
So if you like survival stories, horse stories and/or adventure stories, try The Black Stallion. My guess is that you’ll be reading the whole series before you know it!