Rereading: THE BLACK STALLION by Walter Farley

Cover and illustrations by Keith Ward

I loved this series of books about race horses when I was a child, and I bought many of them with my own pocket money. The first, above, is perhaps the best, and it was adapted into an excellent 1979 film as well.

Teenager Alec Ramsey is returning from a visit with his uncle in India on a tramp steamer (cargo ship) when he sees an amazing horse being loaded into the hold at a port in Saudi Arabia. The Black, as Alec came to call him, was huge, muscular, and full of fight, a challenge for his handlers. Later, the ship is in a strong storm and taking on water. The crew and passengers try to get off in lifeboats, leaving Alec behind. He has made friends with the stallion, and helps get him free and away from the sinking vessel, but Alec becomes caught in the ropes and is towed into the water by the strong horse. After the storm passes, horse and boy land on a small island where they remain shipwrecked for weeks. In that time, Alec gradually gains the trust of the horse, and helps keep him alive. Alec also manages to ride the feisty beast. When his campfire sets things ablaze by accident, a rescue ship arrives to take them on board, another challenge. Later, when they reach South America, Alec is able to contact his parents and get money for him and The Black to come home to Flushing, NY.

In the second act of this exciting story, Alec meets Henry Dailey, a former champion jockey and then horse trainer, now retired. Henry agrees to keep The Black in his barn and pasture, and gradually trains both horse and boy to ride as one. Dailey is amazed at The Black’s speed, and with Alec they cook up a scheme to get this mystery horse with no papers into a race against the top two race horses of the day in Chicago. That makes up act three, and the entire story is thrilling and satisfying. The last chapter still makes me choke up a bit. Recommended.

The Black Stallion by Walter Farley

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