Saturday, March 7, 2015

Born to Trot

Born To TrotBorn To Trot by Marguerite Henry
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Growing up, I loved horse stories, and the best writer/illustrator pair was Marguerite Henry and Wesley Dennis. I've been trying to collect these books, ever since. This is a lovely hardback (sans dust jacket) 1950 first edition - a gift from my sister at Christmas. I'm sure I read this one when I was younger, but I didn't remember the story, so it was fun to read what seemed to be a 'new' story.

This book is almost two books in one. The main story is about Gibson White, a teenage boy whose father trains and races trotters. (These are the horses that pull a two-wheel 'sulky' and must only use the trot gait, never a gallop.) His father is Benjamin Franklin White. (Both characters are based on real people.) Gibson wants nothing more than to race with the grownups, but he is somewhat sickly. His father takes him to the doctor who prescribes a year (!!) of rest at a sanatorium. This is, of course, heart breaking for Gibson. But off he goes.

While recuperating, Gibson's father "gives" him a foal, and agrees to train her for Gibson. Gibson's doctor also gives him a book, about the man who bred the father of all trotters, a stallion named Hambletonian. This story is the book within the book, as we get to 'read along' with Gibson as he reads the book. Through this book we learn the history of the American Trotter, and how the breed was developed from this one stallion. It is an entertaining story, and certainly helps to break up the monotony of the story of Gibson's time laid up in bed.

Of course, Gibson finally recovers, just in time to get his filly ready for the big Hambletonian race. This leads to the one major plot twist in the book, which I won't detail, so as to avoid a spoiler.

The book captures both Gibson's and his dad's love of the horses, and of the sport of Trotting. Henry is masterful in her description of horses, whether simply grazing in a field or tearing down a race track. And Dennis' illustrations are sublime, as usual. This edition has a few lovely color illustrations, as well as a color front and back illustration.

As is usual for books of this era, the only female of note is Gibson's mother, who is pretty much relegated to making food for Gibson and his father. But that is really my only nit to pick. This was an engrossing book, and had the added bonus story of Hambletonian. Any horse lover will enjoy this book immensely. A must-read for Marguerite Henry fans!

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