I can’t believe I took so long to write about Marguerite Henry. As a young reader I read many of her books. She fed my passion for horses (Something I wrote about before. You can see that article here.) I even contemplated sending her a fan mail asking for advice on how I could love and care for my pony more.
Marguerite Henry (Breithaupt) was born the youngest of five children on April 13, 1902 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. At six years old she caught rheumatic fever which left her bedridden and unable to attend school. It was then that she discovered the joy of reading. Her love for animals also started when she was a child. One year for Christmas she received a writing desk and her love of writing was born.
Later in life she was heard to say about this gift, “At last I had a world of my very own—a writing world, and soon it would be populated by all the creatures of my imagination.” (From Dear Readers and Riders, Rand McNalley, 1969, page 200).
At the age of 11 Henry sold her first story to a magazine that had solicited stories about the four seasons from children. The story was entitled Hide and Seek in Autumn Leaves.
She went to Milwaukee State Teachers College and in 1923 she married Sidney Crocker Henry. They didn’t have any children, but instead numerous pets who served for the inspiration for many of her books.
In 1945 when she finished writing Justin Morgan had a Horse, she began her search for an illustrator.
She had seen and loved the work of Will James and Wesley Dennis in her library search of horse books. Upon discovery of James’s death she sent her manuscript to Wesley Dennis. Henry and Dennis would go on to collaborate on nearly 20 books.
In 1947 Misty of Chincoteague was published and was an instant success. The story features the annual pony penning of feral horses from Assateague Island. There were several Misty sequels including two more illustrated by Dennis, Sea Star, Orphan of Chincoteague and Stormy, Misty’s Foal. Tourism for the pony penning almost doubled after the publication of the books.
Misty went on to be adapted for film along with Justin Morgan had a Horse and Brighty of Grand Canyon.
San Domingo, the Medicine Hat Stallion was adapted for television.
She received a Newberry Medal from the American Library Association in 1949 for King of the Wind: the story of the Godolphin
Other books including Black Gold,
and Mustang: Wild Spirit of the West received numerous other awards.
In the 1940’s she wrote texts for the first and fourth sets of the Pictured Geography series published by Albert Whitman and Company of Chicago. These were children’s books about world nations and other territories.
In 1996 her last book Brown Sunshine of Sawdust Valley
On November 26, 1997 she passed away at home in Rancho, Santa Fe, California after multiple strokes.
I know I haven’t read all of her books, but she was one of my favorite authors while growing up. Seeing her books and reading about her life has brought up fond memories. Her animal stories leave a lasting legacy that will travel through the years and delight many children.
Photos, Quotes and Bio from: