I never went through a “horse” stage, which I understand many girls go through. I preferred stories about ghosts, vampires, black cats holed up inside brick walls, and teenagers with telekinesis, so this was one of the many books I missed when I was the target audience. My daughter reads animal stories like I used to read horror stories, so The Black Stallion eventually made it onto her reading list.
While this book gives the reader the sense that there were no women in the early 20th century except a couple of wives who mostly kept fearfully tucked inside their homes trying to keep their menfolk from getting into mischief, it was better than I expected it to be. I vaguely remember seeing the movie when I was a kid, but I mostly just remember it being dark and kind of boring. As a result, I was surprised at just how engaging the book is.
We read it as a read-aloud, and every time I finished a chapter, both of the kids would give me the, “Awww! Just one more chapter? Pleeease?” even if it wasn’t bedtime. We all especially enjoyed the last chapter. It was quite intense, although that might be due in part to the fact that I read it while impersonating a horse race announcer.
A couple of minor points that left me pondering:
1) Alec’s parents pay a surprisingly small amount of attention to his whereabouts. That kid leaves the house at all hours and they not only don’t notice, when they learn about it, they don’t even seem bothered by it. Of course, he is a teenager and he did survive a shipwreck and several weeks on a desert island where he managed to befriend a wild horse in his free time, but I still have trouble imagining giving my kids such free rein (so to speak).
2) His school day ended at 12:30 p.m. Was this common in the 1930’s and 40’s? Because it seems like it would be a lot easier for kids to fit in homework and extracurriculars and still get adequate sleep if their school day ended at lunchtime. How did they get all of their learning done in just a few hours? Were the classes smaller? Were the students more disciplined? Did they just learn less stuff?
At any rate, the book was fun to read, and both of my kids enjoyed it. I wonder if we’ll be picking up Farley’s other Black Stallion books? And I wonder if those will shed any light on the four-hour school-day mystery?