Published by Canterbury Classics on October 28th 2014
Anna Sewell’s 1877 classic Black Beauty is considered to be one of the foremost works in animal welfare literature and a leading work in the children’s pony book genre. Narrated by the horse himself, the book follows his trials and tribulations as he passes from one owner to another and experiences the full spectrum of human treatment — from the knowledgeable and kind to the ignorant and cruel.
Well, my Back to the Classics challenge is going horribly so far…this is the first book I’ve read for it! Yikes. Good thing I set the bar fairly low. 😛 This falls under the category “Book With an Animal in the Title.” Anyway, here’s my review of Black Beauty, by Anna Sewell! I read a condensed version of this book as a very young child and I totally credit it with sparking my love for horses.
“Good luck is rather particular who she rides with, and mostly prefers those who have got common sense and a good heart.””
Black Beauty is a book of anthropomorphic animals. Highly intelligent animals. While told in the language of its time (roughly the 1870s-1880s), it still has an appeal to anyone with a love of animals and an even slight interest in history. The details included are absolutely fascinating and paint a exquisite picture of England and London at that time. I love books that give such perfect, clear pictures of their time – without it feeling like an info dump. Of course, we can only hope that the author gave accurate descriptions, but even today the world Black Beauty lives in feels very real.
“Do you know why this world is as bad as it is? Because people won’t trouble to stand up for the oppressed.”
Some words are as true today as over 100 years ago. This book is 20 times better than the last anthropomorphic animal book I tried (Smoky the Cowhorse…which earned a BIG FAT NO). The animals are all different, with their own experiences and personalities – and so are the humans! Of course the reader’s first loyalties lie with Black Beauty and his friends, but he has some genuinely kind, good owners that are good characters in their own right. Ginger, another horse with whom he becomes friends early on, truly stole my heart.
There are some beautiful quotes, even if the prose occasionally descends to a bit of a preachy tone when it comes to how we treat animals and our fellow man. That is my only real complaint about this lovely story, which, despite having a few notes of sadness (as any good story ought, in my opinion), is a completely worthy addition to any reading program or library.
“Don’t you know that [ignorance] is the worst thing in the world, next to wickedness?”