Title: King of the Wind
Author: Marguerite Henry
Major Themes: 18th century, Africa, Europe, Arab World, Horses, Historical Fiction
Synopsis: A horse is sent by the Sultan of Morocco to the Boy King of France, but the gift is misunderstood and the horse is rejected.
As a girl, I loved horse stories, and Marguerite Henry was one of my favorite authors. She has a way of telling a story that puts you right there in the action. King of the Wind does not disappoint! I just read it to my children, and enjoyed it every bit as much as they did.
The story begins with the end of the fast of Ramadan in the Muslim country of Morocco, and even the Sultan’s horses must fast. Because of this, a mare about to give birth is weakened so much that soon after her colt is born she dies. A young mute boy, Agba, who has taken care of her, takes charge of the colt, Sham, and raises him on camel’s milk. The young horse, as he grows up, fulfills the promise of the white spot on his heel, and is the fastest horse of his age in the Sultan’s stables. Then, the Sultan decides to send a gift to the Boy King of France—Louis XV. He chooses six of the best stallions in his stables, including Sham, and sends them, along with the horse boys charged with their keeping, to France. What he doesn’t know is that the ship’s captain who takes them across the Mediterranean pockets the money that was supposed to feed the horses on the way. Since the horses are in such bad condition when they arrive, the gift is rejected.
Agba does his utmost, through thick and thin, to stay with Sham, but over and over again, just after they have been rescued by a kind person, the horse is again rejected and mistreated. Will he ever have the chance to fulfill the mission the Sultan intended him for, to improve the quality of Europe’s horses?
King of the Wind is a great story for any young horse-lover. It fleshes out the little we know about the beginnings of the Thoroughbred racehorse, and manages to give glimpses into life in Morrocco, the French court before the Revolution, the streets of Paris, and middle-class life in England along the way!
WARNING: The only thing anyone might object to in this story is the little bit of Arab superstition woven through it; the colt was born with a bad omen and a good omen on his body, and Agba thinks about these omens throughout the story.
Listening Level—Ages 5 – 8, 8 – 12
Reading Independently—Ages 8 – 12, 10 – 12