Title: Palio, the Wildest Horse Race in the World
Author: Marguerite Henry
Major Themes: Horses, Palio, Siena, Italy
Synopsis: The big dream of Giorgio’s life is to ride in the Palio, the great historical race held every year in the city of Siena, Italy.
I read 20-30 years’ worth of National Geographic magazines when I was young, and one short article I remember was about the Palio, a horse race that has been run twice every year through the streets of Siena, Italy since the 1590s. I was intrigued by this race, and when, a number of years ago, I was looking through the stacks in a library in Michigan to find books to read to my children, I found Palio, the Wildest Horse Race in the World, by Marguerite Henry, I was immediately interested. Sure enough, as with other stories I’ve read by her, it was a fascinating glimpse into another world.
Giorgio loved horses, but the only horses he was able to ride were the ones his father was fattening to be sold for meat. He fell in love with one particular mare, and then was heartbroken when his father sold her—but his mother told him about a colt born the same day, in a nearby village. This colt was intended to run in the Palio, the great annual race in the big city of Siena across the mountains from Giorgio’s small village of Monticello. Ever since the Umbrella Man told the children of Monticello about the great race, Giorgio has wanted nothing more than to see, or better yet, ride in, it. Will he ever have the opportunity? And what will happen to the colt, Farfalla, who turns out to be too fine-boned a mare for the rough Palio?
If you enjoy horse stories you will love Palio, and you will also enjoy it if you like stories about people. One of the fascinating aspects of this story is to watch Giorgio changing and growing. I also loved the glimpse into Italian country life.
Read Aloud—Ages 5 – 8, 8 – 12, Family Read Alouds
Reading Independently—Ages 8 – 12, 10 – 12