Bel Joeor had this great idea to do a Marguerite Henry readalong blog hop, which I am 100% down for. MH books are basically synonymous with my childhood, so I was eager to participate in the first choice – King of the Wind.
First though, let me give you some background. I like Marguerite Henry. She almost exclusively wrote horse books, and horse books are my jam. I literally cannot count how many equestrian young adult fiction novels I have read… even way past my young adult years.
While I like MH, I love Wesley Dennis. Wesley Dennis is an illustration god. I would die to own one of his original works. One of the quinessential books from my childhood is The Illustrated Marguerite Henry because it’s filled with full page, Wesley Dennis illustrations. Which leads me to my first (of many) gripes about King of the Wind.
This is the original cover of King of the Wind:
Beautiful, classy and just the right amount of ‘hot’ arab.
That’s the cover on my early 90’s version of the book. Note: not painted by Wesley Dennis… therefore sub par. Still, at least it’s a bay Arabian and it has the little golden bag around his neck from the story. I don’t like this cover at all compared to the original, but it’s okay.
This is the current cover from Amazon. WTF. Wtf is that. That horse is chestnut. It looks like a Padron’s Psyche nightmare gone terribly wrong. It looks like it’s been plastic surgeried to death. Why oh why is this considered a tasteful update from the Wesley Dennis original?
To compare, see the original Godolphin Arabian:
Ugh. In protest, the rest of this post I will be including the beautiful illustrations from the original copy of this book… that my cheap paperback did not have 🙁
Okay, so my big beef with King of the Wind besides the illustration trend shown above, is that this is essentially a retelling of Black Beauty. Now, Black Beauty is one of my favorite books and I consider it one of the early true animal rights pieces… but it’s the kind of cherished story that doesn’t need to be rehashed with a slightly different spin.
The true story of the Godolphin Arabian is pretty damn interesting, so the liberties Marguerite Henry took with it are a bit over the top in my opinion. Especially the last part when he’s banished to the bog… wut? Am I really supposed to believe that a tween boy, a full grown stallion and a cat survived essentially spearing fish for several years? I know this is a book for kids, and that’s too far in my opinion.
I also think the Hobgoblin stuff is idiotic. True story? Godolphin Arabian was used as a teaser stallion, and when Lady Roxana rejected Hobgoblin, they allowed the Arabian to mate her instead. That doesn’t make for as much compelling drama, but it makes a lot more sense than a well trained groom letting his beloved horse go fight another stallion.
I’m sounding hard on this book, but it’s still a good read. I read and root for Sham’s greatness to be recognized just like I’m sure many of you did. For many King of the Wind is a treasured classic, but I’m just not in that bunch. There are some other, lesser known Henry greats that hopefully we’ll be reading next that I really, really love.
Have you read King of the Wind? More importantly, don’t you think the crazy chestnut arab illustration should go away?!?