Black Beauty, Anna Sewell


Spring 2023

More of the joy of reading with Percy as she grows up. This was a big book for her, we read a chapter a night over many, many bedtimes, probably three or four months, and I needed to help with the story and the words from that era (1877), plenty of which I didn’t know myself as they were horsey things - though the writing is so brilliant we could almost always work them out from the context.

I don’t remember ever reading Black Beauty as a child, but I watched the heart-stopping film many times. It is told by Black Beauty himself, a strong and brilliant horse, who begins life in a gentle meadow with his mother and a kind master, and charts his decline as he is mistreated, injured and grows old, revealing how easily humans misuse horses and other animals.

It is an engaging and moving story; perhaps most notable is how perfectly Anna Sewell pitches the language to a young reader. Even though her vocabulary is much different to ours 150 years later, the tone speaks so clearly to little ears like Percy’s. No wonder it is one of the bestselling books of all time. Very sadly it is Sewell’s only book, as she died a few months after publication.

We read an ancient copy from M&S with beautiful original illustrations, probably something like this one