King of the Wind

Written by Marguerite Henry
Review by Cassandra Clark

Written in 1948 by an award-winning American author of animal stories, this novel is part truth, part fiction. The true story concerns a colt called Sham – the Sun – who became sire of the illustrious Arabian Godolphin dynasty of racehorses whose descendants still astound race-goers today. The fictional part of the story is about Sham’s little horse-boy, Agba, and how he eventually brings them both to fame and fortune.

As in many good stories, the hero, Agba, defies his enemies, the wicked stable master and his unpredictable and wealthy owner, the sultan, and protects the weak little colt when its dam dies. There is Arabian magic in Sham’s birth, the signs of future greatness on him noticed only by the faithful little horse-boy, and when Agba sees him outrun the other more privileged colts, it leads him to make a promise: he will ride Sham in front of multitudes who will bow down before him and call him King of the Wind.

The true story is shrouded in conjecture, but it is likely that Sham was born in Morocco in the early 18th century, given to the King of France, rejected and bought by a merchant as a Parisian cart horse, then purchased out of kindness by a passing Englishman, to finish up in the Godolphin stables near Newmarket. The horse and his courageous boy, who has his own surprising secret too, are befriended by a fabled grey cat, Grimalkin, and the three charm their way into our hearts and into legend.

This will appeal to any child who loves horses, especially ten- to twelve-year- olds. While not as gritty as the earlier Black Beauty by Anna Sewell, it is still a good read with enough factual content mixed with myth to make it informative as well as entertaining.