"You'll never catch the Phantom," says Grandpa. "That horse is fast as the wind. She's escaped from every roundup on the island!" But Paul and Maureen want the beautiful wild mare for their very own. "I'm going to capture her myself," says Paul.
When Paul finally overtakes the Phantom, he makes a surprising discovery. Running at her side is a brand-new, silvery-gray colt - Misty!
Marguerite Henry (April 13, 1902-November 26, 1997) was an American writer. The author of fifty-nine books based on true stories of horses and other animals, her work has captivated entire generations of children and young adults and won several Newbery Awards and Honors. Among the more famous of her works was Misty of Chincoteague, which was the basis for the 1961 movie Misty, and several sequel books.
"It is exciting to me that no matter how much machinery replaces the horse, the work it can do is still measured in horsepower ... even in the new age. And although a riding horse often weighs half a ton and a big drafter a full ton, either can be led about by a piece of string if he has been wisely trained. This to me is a constant source of wonder and challenge." This quote was from an article about Henry published in the Washington Post on November 28, 1997, in response to a query about her drive to write about horses.
Marguerite Henry inspired children all over the world with her love of animals, especially horses. Author of over fifty children's stories, including the Misty of Chincoteague series, Henry's love of animals started during her childhood. Unfortunately, Henry was stricken with a rheumatic fever at the age of six, which kept her bedridden until the age of twelve. Born to Louis and Anna Breithaupt, the youngest of the five children, Henry was a native of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Because of her illness, Henry wasn't allowed to go to school with other children because of her weak state and the fear of spreading the illness to others. While she was confined indoors, she discovered the joy of reading. Soon afterwards, she also discovered a love for writing when her father, a publisher, presented her with a writing desk for Christmas. On the top of stacks of colored paper her father wrote, “Dear Last of the Mohicans: Not a penny for your thoughts, but a tablet. Merry Christmas! Pappa Louis XXXX.”
Henry's first published work came at the age of eleven, a short story about a collie and a group of children, which she sold to a magazine for $12. Henry always wrote about animals, such as dogs, cats, birds, foxes, and even mules, but chiefly her stories focused on horses.
In 1923, she married Sidney Crocker Henry. During their sixty-four years of marriage they didn't have children, but instead had many pets that inspired some of Marguerite’s stories. They lived in Wayne, Illinois.
In 1947, she published Misty of Chincoteague and it was an instant success. Later, this book—as well as Justin Morgan had a Horse and Brighty of the Grand Canyon—were made into movies.
She finished her last book, Brown Sunshine of Sawdust Valley, just before her death on November 26, 1997 at the age of 95.
This was one of those cases when bedtime arrived, and it was time to start a fresh chapter book, but I hadn't visited the library that day, and so pulled a book from my own collection off the shelves. It wasn't one I'd planned on reading aloud because I thought maybe it was too old-fashioned, and the details of the wild pony round-up tradition on Chincoteague Island might be a little esoteric for present-day youth, but it worked out well; another beloved book from my childhood is now beloved of my seven-year-old boy. I'm glad it turns out you don't have to be a girl to love a book about ponies. We're heading South to visit my mom next week, and there in the basement of her house is the old collection of Breyer model horses from when my sisters and I were kids, Misty included. I think the time has come to pass her down to the next generation, chipped ear and broken hoof and all.
My son was gripped by the story, and at one point during the reading, he said, "I hope that the Phantom and Misty are still alive, so I can go to Chincoteague Island and round them up!", and I had to gently explain to him that the book was published in 1947 and ponies generally don't live much more than twenty years. But I told him he was right in thinking that the Phantom and Misty were real. "This is a true story" I told him, "and this is a special copy of this book. Look I have something to show you." I turned to the title page and showed him four penciled signatures. Paul Beebe. Maureen Beebe. Clarence Beebe (Grandpa). Ida V. Beebe (Grandma). "Look, the real characters from the book signed their names here." If there's one thing my son does well, it's that utterly gratifying shiny-eyed "wow" look that makes everything worthwhile. So then I tucked him and his brother in and then went and looked up Misty on Wikipedia -- and promptly wished I hadn't. According to what I read, the real-life story was actually quite different from what's told in the book. But well now, we all know about how unreliable Wikipedia is, right? Obviously someone was messing around with that entry. I'm pretty sure the true story is still between the pages of my special copy. And now I'm off to mapquest to see how feasible a detour to Chincoteague VA is on a trip from NYC to DC.
Marguerite Henry's Misty of Chincoteague novels truly present one of my all time favourite horse-based children's literature series (or rather, the first three books rank amongst my personal favourites, as I really do not at all like the fourth instalment). And as such, I have never been able (or even all that willing for that matter) to write an actual review of the first three books of the series. I did recently pen a very critical review of the fourth book, of Misty's Twilight (which was published decades after the first three novels and does not feature either Misty or the Beebes), but as I rather majorly despise said novel, it has actually not been all that difficult to post not at all laudatory musings and analyses, whilst with the first three instalments of the series, with Misty of Chincoteague, Sea Star: Orphan of Chincoteaque and Stormy, Misty's Foal even writing a review, even starting a review has been and continues to be much more personally daunting. Not only am I well aware of the fact that with the first three Misty books, I am most definitely rather massively and personally positively biased, but also, like with oh so many if not most of my childhood favourite reads, I also tend to have the personal feeling and even the nagging suspicion that any and all interpretations and analyses I might decide to provide will be, at best merely a pale and even perhaps somewhat cracked reflection of the actual work(s), of Marguerite Henry's narrative skills.
However, I do think it is now time to attempt to consider a review of at least the first Misty book, of Misty of Chincoteague, and to explain, or perhaps more to the point try to explain why and how Marguerite Henry's Newbery Honour winning horse novel has always been such a sweet and evocative favourite (so much so that I still regularly reread and always enjoy it). And even though I am as an adult more than well aware of the fact that as a novel of the late 1940s, there are, of course, instances of datedness, of signs of the times, of indeed some annoying sexism, this does not and never has diminished my love of and for Misty, her horse and human family, her antics, her exploits (and while as an adult, I might well and increasingly see and notice instances and potential issues worthy of discussion and debate, I still massively and lastingly simply and utterly adore Misty of Chincoteague as both a novel and as a delicate and realistic portrait of early to middle 20th century life on the Eastern Seaboard of the United States, the close family ties, the daily lives of the Chincoteaguers, whether they be horse-people, water-people or chicken farmers).
Now while Marguerite Henry has created nuanced and realistically developed characters throughout (as even many of the minor characters who make an appearance in Misty of Chincoteague are portrayed not as simply basic stock personages but as living, breathing entities with clearly defined personalities and both laudable and not so stellar character traits), the main human protagonists (the Beebe family, Grandpa, Grandma, Paul and Maureen) really and truly do in my opinion sparkle and shine. I do love the sense of natural and respectful responsibility and the in many ways massive amount of personal freedom that Paul and Maureen enjoy (and albeit that Maureen might indeed have more house-bound chores than Paul, when it comes to taking care of the family's ponies, and when it comes to making money in order to try to purchase the Phantom come Pony Penning, their responsibilities are not only the same, they are approached as and seen as equals by especially Grandpa Beebe).
But granted, it is indeed true (and uncomfortably so) that in Misty of Chincoteague, especially young Paul Beebe often does seem at least on the surface to be the one and main individual who displays the most blatant and obnoxious sexism (usually and especially towards his sister Maureen). But that having been said, if one then actually considers Paul and Maureen's relationship as older brother and younger sister, Paul's behaviour becomes more and more like simply an opinionated and full of himself older brother lording it over or at least attempting to lord it over his younger sister (thus more a case of sibling squabbles and sibling rivalry than mere sexism). Yes, Paul often chides Maureen for being only "a girl" but really, his little and not so little put-downs are generally and for all intents and purposes an older sibling poking nasty fun at a younger sibling (or trying to show how much smarter he or she is than the younger sibling, which in my humble opinion, usually stems from a low self esteem and a resulting desire to make oneself appear as superior in some way). And at least Paul and Maureen do both have an equal (and thus a fair) opportunity to ride the Phantom in the big Pony Penning race (the fact that Maureen ends up losing, that she figuratively and literally draws the short straw so to speak is just bad luck on her part). Furthermore, that only Paul is able to ride (to participate) in the actual Pony Penning roundup, while that little scenario is indeed more than a bit sexist in and of itself, it is however in NO WAY sexism on Paul's part, but simply how the roundup of the Assateague ponies is generally organised, namely that the rules stipulate that only adult men and boys above a certain age are permitted to be part of the actual penning up of the ponies (and I for one am glad that Marguerite Henry has not tried to change the at that time current cultural practices of the Chincoteague Pony Penning celebrations, such as, for example, having both men and women, both teenaged boys and girls be permitted participate in the round-up, as that would be painting a wrong, and thus a false picture of both time and place).
Furthermore, as a person whose parents both bred raised riding horses (Trakehners, a German warm-blood breed, to be exact), what has probably always impressed me most with regard to Misty of Chincoteague is how knowledgable especially Grandpa Beebe is portrayed with regard to ponies and horses, and how gentle this often gruff and curmudgeonly man is with regard to both horses and his grandchildren (with children in general). He does not expect Paul and Maureen to use a metal bit on the Phantom, explaining to Paul that the soft plant-based wickie bridle and reins Paul and Maureen had been using are more than adequate as long as the Phantom obeys their commands and follows their directions (and Grandpa Beebe is also and happily not in any way shy about showing his intense pride in Paul and Maureen, of praising them for their care of the Phantom and Misty, for being able to actually gentle a three year old wild Assateague mare enough for her to be ridden and later, publicly raced).
And when Paul finally does decide to give the Phantom her freedom (when the Pied Piper comes back for her), Grandpa Beebe both praises Paul and tells his grandchildren that giving the Phantom her freedom, allowing her to return to Assaateague is the humane and thus the right thing to do (and both Paul and Maureen do really know this as well, as both have much horse sense and had been for quite some time wondering whether the Phantom, was really as content and as satisfied with her life on the Beebe's ranch as little Misty obviously is). The ending, with the Phantom being given her freedom (and then little Misty basically making her rounds almost as if to comfort Paul, Maureen and the grandfather) is both sad and sweet, both heartbreaking and uplifting and probably one of the main reasons why Misty of Chincoteague will always have a very special and tenderly sweet place in my heart and in my soul, my being.
Now as to the accompanying illustrations by Wesley Dennis, although they are perhaps not really necessary to understand the story itself, the actual happenings of Misty of Chincoteague, they do provide a glowing compliment of and complement to the text (and I know that my personal visions of how Misty, the Phantom and the Beebes look are based almost entirely on Wesley Dennis' pictorial offerings, so much so that I cannot even consider the Misty series without his evocative and realistically beautiful drawings).
Finally (I promise), with Misty of Chincoteague, Marguerite Henry's writing style, her narration, her vocabulary choices intensely and with the juices of life itself evocatively do glow. The ample use of Chincoteague vernacular (although I know that some readers have had issues and complaints with regard to this) gives a wonderful and truly rich and expansive sense of time and place (making the featured events much more authentic sounding and feeling than if the characters, if the Chincoteaguers had been simply depicted and described as speaking standard English). And while there might indeed be a few instances where a reader (especially a child just learning to read) might stumble over a potential meaning, most of the vernacular words utilised are more than easily enough discerned from the general context of the plot, of the text. And thus yes, I absolutely and utterly adore Marguerite Henry's Misty of Chincoteague and do recommend the novel most highly and eagerly as a glowing example of what I personally consider a perfectly lovely and in all ways wonderful horse-story for children (and for adults who still enjoy reading books for children)!
I loved this story. I do think it was mis-named. It should have been Phantom of Assateague Island. The story is more about the Phantom and the legend built up around here than Misty. Misty is like a secondary character in this story.
I didn't know this was based on a true story. This tells the history of how the wild horses ended up on Assateague Island to begin with. It's fascinating. It was written in the 40s and some of their thinking comes through of course. Paul and Maureen are children living on a horse farm. Paul gets to go to the horse round up on Assateague. Maureen can't go. Then during the race, Paul could have let her race the Phantom and they let a wishbone decide and of course it's Paul for the win. I knew that would happen as soon as it was set up. Anyway.
I loved reading about horses and their stories and the story of Chincoteague. I haven't been and now I would love to. This is a fantastic story. I think I might read more of this series. I do enjoy the prose of Marguerite Henry. Fun books. I want to see how Misty turns out.
Ok so this story is cute but I have some issues with it. First and foremost being WILD ANIMALS SHOULD REMAIN WILD! Nobody should be allowed to buy a wild animal, let alone children. Ok I get the Pony Penning was for population control, but come on now. As innocent as this story was intended to be and as well written as it was, I personally found it to give off the wrong message to younger readers. Maybe I'm being too harsh on this book I don't know, but it just rubbed me the wrong way.
I had a pony as a kid & lived on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, not too far from Chincoteague. We went there & I got to put a real place to the book. The 'Paul' in the book was in his early 30's then, as I recall & I supposedly got to meet him. I was pretty young, about 7 or 8 I guess. I was told he was Paul, anyway. I don't think we got to see Misty, but one of her foals - Stormy? Anyway, it was a memorable book, all my kids read them & my wife too.
This was one of the earliest books I read on my own, in part because Mom read it to me until I knew it by heart. She's a horse nut & gave me my first pony when I was 5. We then lived on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, not too far from Chincoteague. We went there for the round up one year & I got to put a real place to the book. The 'Paul' in the book was in his early 30's then, as I recall & I supposedly got to meet him. I was pretty young, about 7 or 8 I guess. I was told he was Paul, anyway. I don't think we got to see Misty, but one of her foals or something. Who knows, but the plaque on the stall said so. It was a tourist trap in a lot of ways, even in the 1960s.
Anyway, it was a memorable book, all my kids read them & my wife too. I haven't read it in ages, maybe parts to the kids when they were little, but that's been a couple/few decades, too. I stumbled across this audio version at the library & thought I'd see how it fared both in that format & so many years later. Just fine, thank you very much. It's a true classic.
It bothered me that they kept calling foals "colts". Don't recall that at all & I would have thought it would have really bugged me years ago, too. I guess it's sort of like people calling horses ponies, a general term. Irritating.
I didn't remember Grandpa Bebe's ear hair either. My own hair is now migrating south & my barber spends an inordinate amount of time trimming my ears & eyebrows, so I sympathize with his plight. It was kind of funny in this setting, though. Not at all where I would have expected it.
Highly recommended for young & old. If you haven't read it, you should. If you have a young child, this is a great book to raise them on, so long as you don't mind buying them a pony of their own. There are worse addictions, I suppose. If they truly get the horse bug, they probably won't have the money to indulge in any others. ;)
Children have a chance to learn some history and about life in a small, semi-isolated community, and to see what children can accomplish with hard work and patience. I love the theme of freedom & independence. I love the dialect and descriptions that bring the setting alive. I love that it's based on reality.
And I love the tidbits that are sprinkled throughout, for example Grandpa's notion that "Facts are fine, fer as they go, but they're like water bugs skittering atop the water. Legends, now--they go deep down and bring up the heart of a story."
I don't love the sexism, especially Paul's. All in all, this reads younger and simpler than other Henry books, and therefore is, to me, not quite as juicy and re-readable. But I do believe it's *at least* as worthy of the honor as the other selections of 1948.
And I'm glad this story was recognized and popular, helping to ensure the protection of the ponies and other wildlife on Assateague to this day.
And yet... I've no interest in the sequels. Have any of you read, or planned to read, those?
Oh, and let's not forget the expressive, vibrant illustrations. Because of his partnership with Henry, Wesley Dennis was one of the first illustrators I knew by name and reputation, when I was a child.
Oh, btw, I was neither a big fan of horses or historical fiction. So why did I like Henry's stories so much? It must have been because they had both those elements, plus nature & other animals, plus adventure, plus interesting people, plus beautiful writing, all in a graceful balance.
6/10 A favorite story from my childhood - reread for a summer book club. Well written - good tension and suspense. Both male and female horse lovers have a character to relate to in the book and for an old book, (written in 1947) the girl wasn't thrust into a traditional female role! As an adult reading the book, I found myself thinking more about the rightness or wrongness of the actions and feeling more for the wild horses than for the desires of the children. I felt the rounding up of wild horses and selling off their colts was unjust and inhumane. Fortunately, as the story progressed, the author did a good job of explaining the need for the actions. The story had great elements - hard work to obtain a goal, disappointment and loss, hope deferred, compassion, etc..
Can you believe even though I am horse crazy I had never read this before? I guess I never actually had the opportunity to read it. Or maybe I just never even knew about it. I recall knowing and reading about The Black Stallion as a kid but I don't think I had ever heard of Misty before. And this was an excellent story indeed!
But I should say I am a tad confused about the book's title. I mean the actual story is really more about the Phantom (who is Misty's mother) than actually about Misty herself. But I suppose without Misty there would be no story...
So this was a very quick, fun read. It's a great little adventure story for anyone who is horse crazy. At the heart of the tale are two children, Paul and Maureen, who have their hearts set on owning the very famous wild mare known as the Phantom. But she is impossible to catch. And even if by some miracle she is caught in the yearly round-up there is the problem of having enough money to actually buy her! Lots of hopes, dreams and hard work in here...and big soft hearts who care about the safety and welfare of animals.
A beautiful story! And better yet no sad bits (as sometimes with these horse stories you just never know). A true feel good story. And the ending was excellent too!
This 1948 Newberry Honor book is a simple, yet memorable, tale of childhood (that I missed out on during mine thanks to Lovecraft and Tolkien) that has great heart and memorable characters--most of which were real. A terrific sense of time and place allows it to transcend its 1940's stylings and makes it one of the 20th century's great moral fables for younger readers.
This was a book that I checked out from my school's library 43 years ago, but never read (I did return it, though). I did find myself misting up occasionally; it brought back memories I hadn't given a thought to in decades, including a horrifying moment when a meal of...butter beans...was mentioned. I had nightmares about butter beans growing up--even though my mother only served it once. That was enough.
I've read this, and most of Marguerite Henry's books when I was younger and now it is nice to relive them through my daughter's eyes.
When reading this...I remember thinking the same thing as a child. Why was this book called Misty of Chincoteague when it's primarily about her mother, the Phantom.
It's an exciting book. Paul and Maureen are endearing characters. Younger readers might have trouble understanding the dialect of the books. Grandpa and Grandpa in particular have have heavy accents which are represented in the book. My daughter, being only 7, couldnt read this. So, she read the other parts and I read the dialect.
We have the movie and are going to watch this afternoon. We will see how good it is.
Got a little choked up at the end there reading it to my kids. All the warm, fuzzy, childhood memories of curling up with this book at their age... a delightful story for the ages, and a beautiful re-read.
I know I read this as a girl, but not a shred of it remained in my memory after four decades or so. I loved everything about the book, and the narration by Edward Herrmann (Grandpa Gilmore/narrator of Boys in the Boat) was the icing on the cake...or maybe the mane on the pony.
What's the difference between this and a great animal book like Shiloh? I'd say it's the animal.
I went in expecting this to be mainly about a horse, but instead it was mainly about a couple of boring kids. There was no real sense of character. Dick and Jane were sweet, hard-working kids who loved horses at the beginning, and they were pretty much the same at the end. How can kids age a whole year without changing? The only character who seemed real was the hairy-eared grandpa.
The horse was really dull. It might as well have been a hamster or a block of wood that the kids were excited about. Henry tells us that it has a cool marking on its back and that it likes living in the wild with all the enthusiasm of a teenager ordering a sandwich at Subway. The only time I got a sense of the animal was the last chapter. Compare that to an animal like Winn Dixie or The King of the Wind, who seem like creatures with struggles and longings just as valid as any human's.
The plotting was incredibly flat. After two interesting (but mildly racist) chapters about a shipwreck, we go straight into Dick announcing to Jane, "Jane, I plan to catch that horse and beat some other horse in a race." *Spoiler?* This is exactly what happens.
The one point I'll give this book is the last chapter. Henry does a great job of describing The Phantom's movements and using them to telegraph the horse's desires and loyalties. I wish the whole book had had that level of writing. Fortunately, Henry delivered her masterpiece horse book just one year later when she wrote King of the Wind: The Story of the Godolphin Arabian.
Just finished reading this old favorite with my 8 year old son. It was not only my favorite but my Mom's; the book was published in 1947. What little kid doesn't go through a phase of loving horses...even kids like my own who live in the city and have never seen a real horse! It is a fun, engaging read but I had to fix the regional dialect in some places, because English isn't my son's dominant language. I also got my feminist panties in a twist because the gender roles are truly antiquated. The grandma is always home in the kitchen, even on the day of the big race, and the little sister (who is a spunky, independent girl, really not a bad role model) is hanging out the laundry while her brother whittles clothes pins. But we won't go all politically correct on Misty...it's 60 years old for Pete's sake. Just read it and enjoy it...the title character is without a doubt the cutest fuzzy little filly you've ever heard of. She even eats somebody's hat ...aaaaaawwwww!! Adorable! Then, after reading it, go teach your daughters to whittle.
Paul and Maureen Beebe who live with their grandparents on Chincoteague Island dream of owning the Phantom, a horse no one caught for the past two years in the annual roundup on Assateague Island. They save to purchase the Phantom from the fire chief. Paul catches Phantom and her new foal he calls Misty. When they get to the sale, they find a "sold" sign on Misty, and the fire chief informs them Phantom was also sold. Through a stroke of luck, they are able to purchase them anyway. I'll leave out the rest of the plot to prevent spoilers. This childhood favorite will still charm young readers who love horse stories. It would make a good classroom read-aloud as some Outer Banks dialect is included.
So, since I've been staying on Assateague Island, with the wild horses coming through our campsite at least once or twice a day, I thought it only right to download this book onto my Kindle and get in the spirit of the island. I read a lot of books about kids and horses when I was little, but I can't remember if this was one of them. Henry sets a good atmosphere, and very well describes the island. This book was definitely written in the forties. The main character are a young brother and sister. Pretty much every motivation, observation and intuition the little girl has is followed up with someone remarking, "That's because you're a girl!".
This really should have won the Newbery award, rather than just the honor. Although more time is spent on the Phantom of Assateague than Misty of Chincoteague, it doesn't detract from the book in any way. Marguerite Henry has a way of painting a picture for her readers and seamlessly weaving in pieces of history; she always makes for a great read, and this one is no exception.
Luke's book review: This is one of the best books I've ever read. I whipped through it in 6 days - it was that good. This is a book about a horse called Phantom and her colt Misty. My favorite part of the story was when the Phantom (Misty's mother) raced against the Black Comet and Firefly and won!