Justin Morgan Had a Horse
by Marguerite Henry
Review by Rachel Shuman
This is a wonderful book for a child interested in early American history. In telling the story of Joel Goss, the author shows what life was like for a boy growing up just after the Revolutionary War. The reader follows Joel as he spends the last summer of his childhood journeying with music teacher Justin Morgan. Upon their return home to Vermont, Joel is apprenticed out to a local miller. As he learns his trade and becomes a young man, his path often crosses that of Li’l Bub, a colt belonging to the music teacher, and the eventual founding stallion of America’s oldest horse breed. Their reunion, and the empathy Joel feels in regard to the aged horse, is deeply moving.
Some young readers might find the language odd; Mrs. Henry writes in a decidedly old-fashioned style which can sound silly. Towards the end of the book, Joel serves as a horse medic in the war of 1812. The effects of war on horses is discussed but not explicitly described; readers unfamiliar with the topic could find it upsetting.
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About the reviewer: Rachel Shuman has worked the circulation desk at Tredyffrin since 2005. She first read Justin Morgan at the age of nine, and has yearned for a Morgan horse of her own ever since.