Monday, 3 March 2014

PBOTD: 3rd March, Marguerite Henry - King of the Wind

There's a bit of an American theme to the PBOTD at the moment.  Unlike yesterday's book, CW Anderson's Billy and Blaze, King of the Wind (1948) was available in the UK. Its author, Marguerite Henry had a gift for combining horses and history, and this addition of education to the intoxicating mix of child and horse made her books a popular choice for British publishers.  

Armada Lion, 1971
Collins issued most of her books in the 1960s as lush hardback editions with the same beautiful illustrations as the original. They also issued a short run of paperback editions in their larger format, and King of the Wind was one of these. I had the edition illustrated below (in fact I still do). The Armada version kept most of the beautiful Wesley Dennis illustrations of the original, though they did produce a new cover.  I was always very fond of the re-illustrated cover. It's uncredited, but I think captures the spirit of the original. 

Rand McNally reprint
King of the Wind is the story of the Godolphin Arabian, Sham, and his horseboy, Agba. Agba I believe to be a fiction, but Sham is real. He was one of the founding stallions of the Thoroughbred, and came to England having been born in Tunisia. Marguerite Henry's book is a rollicking read, helped in part by the fact it takes on board some of the less well-founded elements of the Godolphin myth. In King of the Wind Sham is shipped to France, where life does not go well, as he ends up pulling a cart. The horse was undoubtedly shipped to France in real life, from where he was imported to England by in 1729 by Edward Coke, but there are no reliable records of him pulling a cart. Despite that, the book is a fine and absorbing read, and it is no surprise it is still in print.

internal illustration
internal illustration
King of the Wind was first published by Rand McNally in America in 1948, and several reprints followed, with the same glorious Wesley Dennis cover illustration. Collins issued the book in the UK with the same cover illustration in 1968, though there was an earlier British edition which appeared in 1957, published by Constable & Co with a cover by British illustrator Sheila Rose. Armada published a paperback edition in 1971. The book is still in print (though through an American company, not a British). Sadly it has lost the Wesley Dennis cover. 

Constable, London, 1957

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For much more on Marguerite Henry, including pictures of most of her books, see her page on my website

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