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National Velvet

4.1  ·  Rating details ·  24,037 Ratings  ·  254 Reviews
A butcher's daughter in a small Sussex town ends her nightly prayers with "Oh, God, give me horses, give me horses! Let me be the best rider in England!" The answer to 14-year-old Velvet Brown's plea materializes in the form of an unwanted piebald, raffled off in a village lottery, who turns out to be adept at jumping fences--exactly the sort of horse that could win the wo ...more
Paperback, 245 pages
Published June 5th 2003 by Egmont Books (first published 1935)
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Sharon Snow I got this from Amazon for my Kindle Fire. Once you download it you can read it. It's also available as hardcopy.
Willow Lucy Based off my experiences, I would say this book would be best suited for the 10-17 age range, however it's an enjoyable read for people of any age.

Community Reviews

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Shirley Revill
A truly magical story that has been on my favourite books list since I was a child.
Through the years my children and grandchildren have all enjoyed reading this book that makes you think that no matter how big the dream your dreams can come true.
I also love the film that was made starring a very young Elizabeth Taylor and Mickey Rooney and I believe it was Elizabeth Taylor's first movie.
This has to be one of the best classic stories around that never loses its magic.

Feb 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
How do you rate a book like this? It's marketed as a children's book, but when I read it as a pre-teen there's no way I got all the subtleties that the author works into her themes. It was written in 1935, so of course it's aged. While I was reading the book, I was very aware that I was being given a slice of life for a way that people don't live anymore. How many people even know what butchering is, much less what it would be like to live in front of a kill yard? There's nowhere I know that wou ...more
June Geiger
Apr 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Though I've treasured this since I was 12, I'd completely forgotten to include it here until "Flicka"'s lyrical narration on the Hallmark Channel sent me scrambling for book excerpts online (thru red, swollen eyes, of course - hey it's a horse flick!) which led to a lovely "Velvet" detour. And what a lovely book it is - yes, yes, the triumph of the human spirit and all that, which, by the way, can never be overdone in children's or YA or ANY literature for that matter - but Enid Bagnold laid it ...more
From BBC Radio 4 - Afternoon Drama:
Fourteen year old Velvet is mad about horses. She knows 'there are pleasures earlier than love. Earlier than love, nearer heaven' in the form of horses.

When she wins a piebald horse in a raffle, she recognises he's something special. He can easily clear five-foot fences, and he'll do anything for her. Soon, she and butcher's assistant Mi have their sights set on the biggest race in England. But how can a girl in 1930s England get near Aintree?

Peter Flannery res
This may be one of the strangest books ever written. I first read it when I was eleven or so and didn't understand it. Quite frankly: I still don't. Is it a slice-of-life book? Is it a race book? The race speeds by so fast - more page time is given to the media than to the race - and yet the entire novel turns on those few pages. It's odd.

The first half of the book is purely a family story, and that has its very odd moments, too. Lots of the older girls looking like "golden greyhounds" and bein
Beth Bonini
Jun 19, 2012 rated it liked it
Not long ago, I read Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons -- written in the 1930s and set in rural England, just like this novel. There was an illuminating introduction to that book, in which the editor explained how Gibbons was parodying a writing style and subject matter popular in that era. (If you've read any D.H. Lawrence you will have a feeling for what I'm referring to: the inarticulate but powerful Nature of women and that sort of thing.) I couldn't help think of that essay when I read th ...more
May 20, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really liked this book. Sometimes, I just can't stand books written in "old" style writing, but I just adored National Velvet. The characters, the plot, the descriptions... it was all just very well done.

First off, Velvet is a fourteen year old girl who aspires to become the best rider in England and win the Grand National. The amazing thing is, she actually does it! Now who wouldn't love such a heroine? She's very sweet and innocent, but very determined and she loves her family, and of course
Lisa Sunden
Mar 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 11, 2017 rated it liked it
My children and I just read this book together. The storyline was refreshing and tender but the writing style was choppy. The author gave beautiful descriptions, yet it was a hard book to read aloud. There were times that we could not decipher whose emotions we were reading about, a dog, horse, child or adult. We read many books outloud, this one was the most laborious. We kept going because we loved the storyline. After completing the book, we watched the movie starring Elizabeth Taylor. I know ...more
Nov 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
Like many girls in the last century, I went through a "horsey" phase. (Do girls still do that? I suspect not, but since my acquaintance with modern girls is small, I don't know.) I read all the horsey books I could find in our small local library. Billy and Bangs, Misty of Chincoteague, Brighty of Grand Canyon, Man O' War, etc. (I also read dog books, but I still read those.)

I remember reading National Velvet either in late middle school or early high school. It was one of the books in the books
Feb 06, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
'National Velvet' is not what I thought it would be. In fact, it was one of the more disheartening books I've read in a while. My issue is with the style and content of the story -- because the overall plot is just dandy! (i.e., girl trains horse to become a race champion? Awesome.)

Let's start at the beginning, shall we? My problems with it started on page 1. And yet, I thought that it must get better. It's a children's classic, right? So it has to be good. Or not, depending on who you are.

So, p
Mar 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
National Velvet is a story that every horse mad girl would devour within an instant and it was hence a novel that i fell in love with as a child/ teenager for its horse & horse racing content. The only way that i can describe it is when reading this story it was like opening a window into your heart and glimpsing ones dreams & aspirations within. Emotive and captivating this book really does tug on the heartstrings and leave you breathless, whilst following a double story of the young gi ...more
Jun 23, 2013 rated it it was ok
I encountered this novel in a Short Story collection. Its negative aspects impressed themselves so much on my mind that I felt that the book itself warranted another separate review.

Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against the content of the book. The plot-line while fragmented had some saving graces. Velvet & Mi's touching relationship was great. There was also some joy to be extracted from the family's Kafkaesque demeanour.

What made me dislike the book profusely was the prose. It was to
Pam Stone
Apr 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Even as a middle aged woman, National Velvet remains one of the most beautifully yet earnestly written books I've ever read. It's really not for children at all--it's far grittier in places yet irresistibly intimate and realistic in regards to the gentle bickering of families and working class backgrounds. It champions women: the obese mother and the skeletal daughter with buck teeth. That Velvet is the only homely child in the household, again, Bagnold creates triumph out of the female spirit t ...more
Laura Bang
Rather oddly written -- it took me a few chapters to get used to the style (and, rather like Narrow Dog To Carcassonne, which I read earlier this year, I just had to make peace with always being vaguely confused about what was going on). I picked this up from the children's section of the library, but it doesn't really strike me as a children's book unless you've got a really sophisticated reader who is interested in early 20th-century British family life. It's definitely more about a girl and t ...more
May 05, 2012 rated it it was ok
I watched this movie several times as a child, but never read the book. I am a horse fan and so I've watched most movies that have something to do with horses. Even though it was about a horse, I always felt there was something not quite right in the film. It just seemed....strange. I couldn't really identify with the main character.

I now understand why the movie was like that - because the book is strange too :) The story isn't very cohesive and lacks depth. The family in the story is just biza
Aug 19, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: horse-crazy girls (10-16)
Recommended to Tiffany by: Given as a gift when I was young
Shelves: fiction, youth
I haven't read this book for a while, but when I was like Velvet, a young, horse-crazy dreamer, this book was a definite big hit. I totally understood how Velvet would "loose her lunch" at the sight of a beautiful horse, and this book supported my own horse love. I loved the movie, but never could figure out why they made the horse a big chestnut instead of what he was, a Piebald, which is how he got his name. I remember when reading this book that I fell into the story, I think I breathed it an ...more
S Economy
I started this book with my 10 year old daughter as a read aloud as I loved the movie from my childhood. But after a couple of chapters we gave up because the rural English language Bagnold uses was too difficult for us to understand. Also the story just wasn’t grabbing us. And it’s not like we don’t enjoy older books because we loved The Secret Garden, The Little House books and Anne of Green Gables. We did rent the Elizabeth Taylor/Mickey Rooney movie which, IMO, has stood the test of time as ...more
May 14, 2011 rated it did not like it
Loved the movie, but hated the book! First of all the way the characters talked gave me a headache, and the fact that the father was a butcher made for my sensitivity for animal welfare go into overdrive. The story is a complete mess that never seemed to make me want to know what would happen next because I was so bored I just didn't care. Not only does Velvet get The Pie, she's also left four other horses from a man who commits suicide which for a children's novel I thought was completely inapp ...more
I remember, as a kid, trying and trying to read this book. It was tough to get into. That wall of British culture that my American sensibilities could only barely breach. I desperately wanted to spend time with fictional horses. Can't recall if I finished National Velvet, or if I liked it, but I'll always enjoy way the title feels in my mouth.
Aug 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
Exhilarating read about impossible dreams' being realized. I read this aloud to a ten year old daughter whose mild interest in horses had been quenched by a broken arm in the practice ring, but we both still loved the story. No, it's not realistic, but when did fiction always have to be?
You know, when I was young(er) I loved this book because it was a good story. Now that I'm old(er) I'm stunned by just what a truly fantastic writer Enid Bagnold is.
Film was better than the book - that's rare isn't it!
Kristen Coffin
Sep 19, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: animals
“I don’t like people,” said Velvet. “…I only like horses.”

I'm so disappointed in myself that I didn't love this book, because I ADORE horse books. And this one has such an amazing premise: young, small town girl trains a nobody horse to be a champion. It's The Black Stallion. It's Justin Morgan Had a Horse. It's Seabiscuit: An American Legend. But this was more about Velvet than about The Pie.

It's not that I don't love books about strong female leads. But there was so much story here that I feel
Becky Benishek
Mar 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: young-adult
I saw the movie first, with Elizabeth Taylor and Mickey Rooney, and it was enchanting.

This book reveals such depth and astonishing elements that I return to it more than the movie. This is no mere horse-crazy teenager. From the opening setting of the scene that introduces us to Velvet, to the rare involved comprehension of her entire family, each with their own remarkable quirks, including Mi Taylor, who is at first more of a general errands-man for the slaughterhouse business, I found myself qu
Debbie Curtis
Feb 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I read this long ago, as a horse-crazy girl. I am still a horse-crazy girl in a 55-year-old body, however, with horses! This book brought the world of steeplechasing, England's culture, racing culture, to me. Long before Dick Frances wrote about racing, Enid Bagnold wrote about a girl who dreamed of riding in the Grand National, the toughest Steeplechase in the world. Of course, girls couldn't be jockeys, so the heroine must pretend to be one.
I lived vicariously through the heroine, who Elizab
Feb 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
A bit slow in places. But written accurately as to what it all wouldve been like. So believable in that way.

Encourages young people todream big and to kep moving towards their dreams. To say absolutely anything is possible.

The characters are written without much depth in my opinion but are written with individual, charming and good natured personalities. Im not sure if people really are like that, but being it is more a story for teens... Whos complaining.

One thing. This book/ the movie are v
Karlyne Landrum
Mar 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing
One of the best books ever written about childhood, adulthood and all the days in between. Horse lovers will of course find this fascinating, but it's a book that's much more than a "horse-book". It's a book about family and relationships and knowing your own self and others. I can't recommend it too highly.
Sep 27, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: young-adult
The story was enjoyable, though not what I expected. Though it is indeed a horse story, it's also the story of a family in post-war England. I would imagine that it would be a bit of a slog for young people to get through; there's a lot of British slang and horse terms that many would find quite literally foreign. Avid horse lovers, though, will undoubtedly want to read it.
Candy Atkins
Dec 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
I am extremely biased when it comes to horse books. This is no exception. I loved it as a kid and I read it again with my children. If you love horses or know someone who does, they will enjoy this book. However, I don’t think it holds up when compared to Black Beauty or The Black Stallion. Also, the movie is better (gasp!)
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Play Book Tag: National Velvet by Enid Bagnold - 3 stars 1 7 Mar 05, 2017 10:21AM  
Children's Books: Horse Books 12 23 May 13, 2015 07:52PM  
All About Animals: National Velvet 22 17 Aug 09, 2014 05:08PM  
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British writer of novels and plays, best known for National Velvet and The Chalk Garden.

For more information, please see
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“I don't like people," said Velvet. "... I only like horses.” 61 likes
“You always was a nice chap," said Mrs. Brown. "On'y I'm so buried under me fat I feel half ashamed to tell you so. Love don't seem dainty on a fat woman. Nothin's going to break up this home not even if you lose yer head, but it'll make it easier if you keep it. On'y leave that child to me. She's got more to come. You think the Grand National's the end of all things, but a child that can do that can do more when she's grown. On'y keep her level, keep her going quiet. We'll live this down presently an' you'll see” 5 likes
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