As a child, I fell in love with both horses and reading. Even as I grew older, I would still look for books about horses, even those meant for kids and middle-grade readers. Actually, the novels targeted at middle-grade readers are some of my favorites to read even now as an adult!
The popularity of horse stories is evident by the continued publication of many of these beloved titles! Your children will enjoy these novels if you are looking for a new book to read to them.
1. Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
Black Beauty is the most recognizable of these titles for non-horsey readers. An English classic, this novel was composed by Anna Sewell in her later years after a childhood accident left her disabled. She wrote the novel so people would understand horses better and be kind to them. Although not originally targeted towards children, it has become a beloved classic. It was first published in November 1877.
The novel follows the trials and tribulations of Black Beauty, a fine horse who spends his first years with nice owners who treat their animals well. After a series of unfortunate incidents, Black Beauty is separated from his owners and horse friends of his youth. He goes through a series of owners, some who are kind, and others who are cruel. Black Beauty longs for the days of his kinder owners, and fate intervenes when he is sold for the last time in his life.
2. Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry
Marguerite Henry (1902-1997) was a prolific writer of children’s stories during her lifetime, and many were focused on the tale of horses. Her most famous children’s novel, Misty of Chincoteague, was published in 1947 and is based on real horses and people.
Paul and Maureen Beebe are orphaned siblings being raised by their grandparents on Chincoteague Island. Their grandfather breeds and sells the sturdy island ponies, but all the kids want is a pony of their own. They take odd jobs to save money so they can purchase the elusive wild mare, Phantom, who has escaped the annual Pony Penning Round-up for two years in a row on Assateague Island. Much to their surprise, the Phantom has foaled a spry new foal, and Paul manages to round up the mare and her foal. After purchasing the Phantom and her foal, Misty, the children are not discouraged by the negative remarks that the Phantom cannot be gentled. Through belief and perseverance, the children will prove the islanders wrong, but also come to realize not all creatures are meant to be tamed.
This is absolutely my favorite novel by Marguerite Henry, and I also love the movie that was released in 1961. This novel helped bring awareness and knowledge of the island ponies to the USA and made Chincoteague and Assateague islands modern-day tourist attractions.
3. My Friend Flicka by Mary O’Hara
My Friend Flicka, published in 1941, centers around the story of 10-year-old Ken Mclaughlin as he struggles with school and his relationship with his father, Rob, a horse rancher in Wyoming. Ken longs for a horse of his own to train and is finally allowed to pick one after his mother convinces his father to allow him this privilege. She believes having a colt to train will encourage her son to take responsibility.
Much to his father’s chagrin, Ken chooses a young filly who has a strain of Mustang blood after his father has chosen to get rid of the fast and beautiful horses because they seem untamable. Ken is determined to prove to his father that Flicka is trainable and that he can win her over.
This novel turned into a three book series and also inspired movies. The remake in 2006 “Flicka” is loosely based off of the novel, but the older films hold truer to the books.
4. The Black Stallion Series by Walter Farley
This series follows The Black, an Arab stallion, who saves young Alec Ramsey after the ship they are on is wrecked at sea in the first novel. After they are rescued from the island, Alec enters the circle of horse racing to prove The Black is the fastest horse in the United States. The subsequent novels explore Alec’s further adventures with his legendary stallion, The Black, and also The Black’s offspring.
The first novel, The Black Stallion, was published in 1941 and became a bestselling series as more books were released. The first two books inspired the movies “The Black Stallion” and “The Black Stallion Returns”.
5. Billy and Blaze by Clarence Williams Anderson
Billy and Blaze was released in 1936 and was the first book in an eleven-part series. The books follow the adventures of young Billy and his pony, Blaze, whom he received as a gift on his birthday. These horse books are definitely meant for children, and can be read to younger children or used to encourage young readers to read on their own! You can find the books on amazon.com both in paperback or as an e-book!
6. The Blind Colt by Glen Rounds
I read this book from the library as a young girl and found a copy at a bookstore in high school. The story is about a baby Mustang born blind in the wild. He survives but is adopted and trained to be a riding horse by a 10-year-old by name Whitley.
This book is recommended for grades 3-5. Sadly, it is not currently in print, but you can find used copies for sale through sellers on Amazon. I am also sure some libraries have copies still!
7. National Velvet by Enid Bagnold
This is the novel that inspired the film of the same name. Elizabeth Taylor portrayed the main character, Velvet. Velvet is the daughter of a butcher in Sussex and prays for a horse and to be the best rider. She wins an unwanted horse, The Pie, in a raffle, and he turns out to be adept at jumping. Along with her best friend, Mi, they begin to train the horse for a Grand National Steeplechase.
This novel was published in Britain in 1935 and has continued to enchant audiences for over 80 years. At the time of its publication, Velvet would have been one of the rare female heroines found in children’s books!
8. War Horse by Michael Morpurgo
This historical fiction novel is told from the POV of the horse, Joey, who narrates the events of his life before and during World War I. Joey is purchased by Ted Narracott, a farmer struggling with drinking. His son, Albert, takes a shine to the colt and cares and protects him. When his father sells Joey to the army to keep their farm, Albert tries to follow his by signing up for the army, but he is too young.
Though they are separated, Joey and Albert do not forget each other in war-torn Europe. Albert is determined to find his horse and follows him into the life-changing course of fighting in the war.
I think this novel will remain a classic for children for years to come. Not only is it an excellent work of fiction that covers the relationship between a boy and his horse, but it also teaches children about historical events and what life was like in Europe during WW I.
9. The Girl Who Remembered Horses by Linda Benson
This novel I would recommend for middle-grade students, but it can be enjoyed by horse lovers of all ages. In the future, technology and the previous bond between man and horse have disappeared. Sahara travels with her clan in the barren land but dreams of riding a horse. In the post-apocalyptic world where modern conveniences are nothing but a memory, her desire to find horses is laughed at. Once she discovers horses still exist in some places, she is determined to show her family she can ride and train a horse, as their ancestors did.
Benson did a fantastic job writing this novel, and it is reminiscent of when man or woman first gained the trust of a horse. She has vivid descriptions and great character development throughout the novel.
This novel is now only available as an e-book, but it well worth the purchase to read!
10. I rode a Horse of Milk White Jade by Diane Lee Wilson
I found this book as a middle-schooler at my local library! I Rode a Horse of Milk White Jade takes place in Mongolia during the reign of Kublai Khan. Oyuna’s foot was crushed by a horse as a young girl, making her partially crippled. After that, it is believed the incident has brought bad luck to her family, including the death of her mother. When her father gives her a horse of her own choosing, she picks a white mare. When the army comes through searching for horses and soldiers, she disguises herself as a boy to stay with the old mare. She will do anything to be with her horse and to bring glory back to her family.
This is novel is a great read for girls or an adult, especially if you are interested in learning about horses in different cultures. This novel has a special place in my heart, as it was the first book I ever read about horses that took place in Asia!
I hope you will try reading one of these horse books on my list! After all, it’s hard not to enjoy a good horse book, no matter how old you are!