Black Beauty: Book Review by Katherine Sikes

   Black Beauty: Book Review by Katherine Sikes         Hi there! I’m Katherine, your friendly neighborhood book nerd. My dear friend Michelle made the mistake of asking if I’d like to write about books for her blog (as if that question even needed to be asked…) so I’ll be sharing some book-ish thoughts with you every few weeks. Since we’re just getting introduced, I thought my first post should be about my favorite book.

         It won’t surprise you to find out that I was that kid with my nose always in a book. There is even a picture of me sitting on a bike – not pedaling as most kids would be, but with the kickstand down, bike parked, my feet up on the handlebars, and me thoroughly engrossed in a book. Sometimes I feel like my life has revolved around books. I choose a book to fit my mood, or my mood warps to fit whatever book I’m reading. I plan reading around my various travels, aiming to get a taste of a country or city from a treasured local author or a book set in that region. I can mostly remember what book (or more accurately, books…) I was reading during certain parts of my life. I’ve often felt sorrow at finishing even the happiest of books because I feel as though my new friends have left me. At the end of a few books I’ve even paused for only a few brief moments before turning back to page one to step once again into a world I wasn’t ready to leave yet.

            Ask most book lovers to name their favorite book and you’ll get a look somewhere between panic and incredulity – because who could ever pick just one favorite? But this is where I differ from my fellow book lovers. See, I do have a favorite book, and my love for it has stayed constant for close to thirty years. It has love, it has death, it has despair and triumph, it has cruelty and indifference and kindness. But most importantly – it has horses. That book is Black Beauty by Anna Sewell.

            I was, like many other young girls, completely horse crazy. However, I didn’t get to ride much as a child. Until I went to summer camp after 8th grade, my love of horses was cultivated solely from pony rides at local fairs and the many (many) horse books I begged, borrowed, or stole (never stole, I promise!) I read about Misty, I read about the Black Stallion and his son and all of the other horses in that series. I read the Saddle Club books and the Thoroughbred books and a book about a Palomino whose name I can’t remember (sorry, Palomino. But you were beautiful!) None of them made me yearn to be around horses as much as Black Beauty did.

            I loved Beauty. I yearned for young Joe Green to give him his blanket after that wet, miserable ride. I cried when they broke poor Ginger’s spirit and ultimately her body. I giggled along with the children as they cavorted around on Merrylegs. And I rejoiced when Beauty, after all of his adventures – some good, some bad, some horrifying – ended up with a grown-up Joe Green. (Oops, sorry – spoiler alert.) As I started riding, I learned from Joe, John Manly, and Jerry Barker about how wonderful it was just to be around horses in the barn, to care for them and smell like them and endlessly brush them. As I grew older, the various stages of Beauty’s life made me contemplate how much we used to rely on horses for living and how the world has so significantly changed to where horses are now mostly for leisure. Beauty was – is – my ideal horse: beautiful, tall, proud, and so patient and forgiving.

            As I grew older, and over many (many) re-readings of Black Beauty, I learned more about its place in history. You see, it was more than “just” a book. Ms. Sewell’s novel from a horse’s point of view served notice to Victorian England and a changing world about the cruelty that these remarkable creatures often endured. This book, this lovely, anthropomorphic love letter to horses, sparked the first major movement in England against animal cruelty and led to a change in laws to protect animals. Black Beauty shows the good, the bad, and the indifferent in the world of horses – but mostly it shows how rewarding it is to treat these generous, lovely creatures with love, kindness, and respect. This novel, that I loved so much for Beauty’s large heart, changed horses’ lives for the better. And it’s darn good writing, to boot.

            How could this not be my favorite book?

            I’d love to hear from you all if you have one favorite book or if it’s too impossible to pick only one. Let me know in the comments, and also what your favorites are – I’m always looking to increase my To Be Read list! 

You can purchase any of the books mentioned in this post and help support an Independent bookstore at (links below.) Disclaimer: Blogger not to be held financially responsible for any horse-crazy purchases that result!

Black Beauty:

Misty of Chincoteague:

The Black Stallion:

The Saddle Club #1:

Thoroughbred series #1:

Blogger Katherine SikesKatherine Sikes lives in Hampton Roads, Virginia, with her snuggly cat Rudy and her cheese-loving dog Roxie. When she’s not reading you can find her writing, traveling, running, cooking, and generally doing everything possible to avoid yardwork.

Good As It Gifts Disclaimer: The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the blog above belong solely to the author, and not to Good As It Gifts. Additionally, we are not responsible for the content of the external pages linked in our blog.

1 comment

  • It really is such a wonderful book, though it is VERY hard to read out loud kids when you are prone to sobbing through it – especially the end. I love that it is thought to have been instrumental in causing people to form the Royal SPCA, and also greatly influenced Henry Bergh, who founded the ASPCA. Books are so powerful!


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