Louise and I listened to this audiobook over a period of a couple of days last week while I worked in our school room, while we ran errands, and while we went on a little road trip. I never feel like I can quite do a book that I “read” in this way justice because I have to see the words on the page for them to really sink in. Still, I want to document our enjoyment of this story for several reasons: first, it was the 1949 Newbery Award winner, and I’d love to be able to say I’ve read them all some day. Second, I’m attempting to participate in Sherry’s North Africa Reading Challenge, and I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the first part of King of the Wind takes place in Morocco, and the human protagonist in the story is a mute Moroccan boy named Agba. Third, although my own horsey phase (through which surely most bookloving girls must pass) expired somewhere in the neighborhood of twenty-five years ago, I remember it with fondness, and I have passed off several of the Marguerite Henry books to Lulu, having gotten it on good authority that they’re worthwhile reads but having missed them myself. I thought it high time I actually read one of them to find out!
I can say with assurance now that this Marguerite Henry book is beautifully written and evocative, capturing both the relationship between the horse and his boy and the various places they find themselves. Agba and his horse Sham don’t stay in Morocco. In fact, they are chosen by the Sultan to be a gift to the boy king of France. As it turns out, though, the two markings on Agba’s coat–a white spot on one of his hind feet that supposedly indicates swiftness and a “wheat ear” on his head that is a portent of bad fortune–are both correct: the fortunes of Agba and Sham will rise and fall repeatedly, taking them from Paris to London, from being a carthorse to becoming the Godolphin Arabian, the sire to a whole line of thoroughbreds, including Man o’ War with whom the story begins. Through it all, the faithful Agba refuses to give up his place as Sham’s boy, fulfilling a charge he was given back in Morocco to stay with his horse until the horse’s death, and only then to return to Morocco. Accomplishing this through great personal sacrifice, Agba feels justified in the end because, in the words of the Earl of Godolphin, Sham’s “pedigree is written in his sons.” This is one of those come-from-behind, cheer-for-the-underdog kinds of stories that you finish with a contented sigh. Louise and I both give it a Highly Recommended. (Rand McNally, 1948)
I should say a word about the audiobook and its narrator, too, because she really enhanced this experience. We enjoyed the Recorded Books version narrated by Davina Porter, and her British accent couldn’t have been more perfect for this story set partly in England.
Because the chances of my ever traveling to Morocco are slim, I thought I’d share the closest I’ve come yet: Morocco at Epcot in Orlando, Florida. 🙂 I realize this is probably not all that authentic, but I did think about it while reading King of the Wind.
I’ll be linking this review of to Sherry’s North Africa Reading Challenge round-up for June and this month’s Award Winning Books Challenge database. I’ll also share it at The Newbery Project blog.