What does every little girl want? That’s right- a pony. Okay, maybe not EVERY little girl wants a pony, but it’s a pretty safe bet. (Note to little girls who do not want ponies or boys who think ponies are for girls: Black Beauty is technically a horse, so don’t feel too stigmatized.) Anyway, Anna Sewell’s classic Black Beauty has been flying off the shelves since 1877 by animal lovers and non (thus soon to be) alike. Some attribute it the credit (or blame) of beginning the genre of pony books- think The Pony Club, The Saddle Club, (why so many clubs?), the Misty of Chinocteague series, Pony Pals, etc. In its lifetime, over 50 million copies have been sold and it is one of the best-selling books OF ALL TIME. That’s right, for 137 years this book has ruled the roost of children’s literature and I don’t think it will be going anywhere anytime soon. That being the case, I thought Black Beauty deserved the spotlight today.
Sewell’s classic doesn’t hold punches when talking about the abuse, cruelty and neglect animal’s face in turn of the century England. For that reason I wouldn’t recommend Black Beauty for readers younger than second grade. But this should not be a turnoff. The juxtaposition of kindness and cruelty as she takes us through the life of the truly amazing Black are incomparable and have profound impacts on the reader. Her short chapters have strong lessons that will never be outdated, since lessons of kindness, loyalty, and sympathy never go out of style. Sewell brings hope to hopeless situations and truly emphasizes the importance of kindness, especially towards those who can’t help themselves. Through the highs and lows (literally, since Black jumps) the reader is pulled into one adventure after another. It’s a busy life for a horse in Victorian England.
Straight from the mouth of a girl who never outgrew her “pony stage,”