I relived some of the best moments from my childhood over the last two weeks as I shared the all-time greatest book ever with my boys. As a young girl, I spent a good deal of time dreaming of horses. And much of the blame for that can be laid at the feet of Mr. Walter Farley, author of The Black Stallion.
I remember the day my mom came home from the library and put that book in my hands. It honestly was a life-changing moment. I was in fourth grade at the time, and not yet an avid reader. But by the shipwreck in chapter two, Mr. Farley had me, hook, line and sinker. I was dragged through the sea to the deserted island along with Alec and the Black. I scavenged for food. I tamed the stallion. I rode for hours at the edge of the sea. I was there pleading along with Alec when his rescuers were going to refuse passage for the Black. I was on pins and needles during the long months Alec and his trainer Henry waited for word of the Black’s lineage so they could provide the papers necessary to race him. And I cheered myself hoarse when the Black finally tore up the track.
Over the next year, I read every single Black Stallion book our library carried—not every one that was written, but nearly. I even saved up my allowance to buy some of the ones I couldn’t borrow. I entertained the notion of being a jockey long past the age of reason. Even in junior high and high school, after my family moved to the country and purchased a horse, I would pretend I was in silks and Rusty was a long-legged Thoroughbred. I was thrilled that he was, in fact, part Arabian, just like the Black. And to this day, I still watch the Big Three horse races every summer.
This week with my boys, I was back in fourth grade recapturing that magic. The writing wasn’t quite as perfect as I remember, but in my opinion, it’s still the greatest book in the world, because not a single one since has ever captured me as completely as the Black.
We finished reading a few days ahead of schedule because my boys never wanted to quit reading after only two chapters, and several times they were able to persuade me to put off math and read another. Tonight we watched the movie, and as I put my youngest in bed, he was still celebrating the closing moments. I hope tonight in his dreams my little guy, too, gets to ride a very special big, black horse.
Fourth or fifth grade reading level, read-aloud 6+.