The best horse-themed children’s books—and that ain’t hay

Who am I?

I stumbled upon an article about Zippy Chippy and knew, right out of the starting gate, that I needed to share his fascinating tale with young readers. I’m the author of a quintet of hilarious rhyming picture books, including the classic The Butt Book and my “number two” picture book, Poopendous! But this was a horse of a different color for me. It’s my first picture-book biography in prose. When I was a lad, my father would take me, on occasion, to Aqueduct Racetrack. I watched in awe as the horses would thunder by. These boyhood experiences surely planted the seeds. I fell in love with Zippy Chippy, and I know you will, too. 

I wrote...

The True Story of Zippy Chippy: The Little Horse That Couldn't

By Artie Bennett,

Book cover of The True Story of Zippy Chippy: The Little Horse That Couldn't

What is my book about?

The humorous, inspirational, heartwarming story of a racehorse who ran 100 races but lost every single one, yet became a folk hero, just like his legendary ancestors. Narrowly avoiding the slaughterhouse, Zippy Chippy is acquired by Felix Monserrate, a horse trainer from Puerto Rico, who believes he can turn Zippy’s fortunes around. And when Felix’s small daughter, Marisa, develops a frolicsome friendship with the mischievous horse, Zippy’s fortunes do turn around, though not necessarily on the racetrack. The book is beautifully illustrated by Dave Szalay, who captures the soul of a steed. Zippy teaches us to never give up on our dreams, even when their fulfillment may sometimes be elusive. The fabled racehorse passed away on April 16, 2022, days shy of his 31st birthday. I was privileged to deliver a eulogy at his graveside memorial service.

The books I picked & why

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Robert the Rose Horse

By Joan Heilbroner,

Book cover of Robert the Rose Horse

Why this book?

This charming Beginner Book from 1962 delighted me in childhood and delights me still. It’s the story of a hardworking horse, Robert, who is handicapped by a rather severe allergy to roses. Roses make him sneeze, but it’s not your garden-variety sneeze. It’s a volcanic sneeze that upends everything in its path. Seeking his fortune in the big city, Robert undertakes a succession of jobs, only to be undone at each by his misfortunate malady. Will Robert ever achieve job security? The hilarious P. D. Eastman illustrations make this an enduring classic.

The Horse that Played the Outfield

By William Heuman, William Moyers (illustrator),

Book cover of The Horse that Played the Outfield

Why this book?

This sweet, humorous tale from my childhood combined two of my favorite things—horses and baseball—making it the perfect mashup for me. The narrator, with tongue in cheek, recounts the story of two brothers in the boondocks who attempt to cobble together a baseball team to square off against rival towns. But because prospective ballplayers are few and far between, they enlist the services of Edgar, an all-white horse, to fill out their roster and play center field. Edgar can’t hit for beans, but he can chase down fly balls like Willie Mays, catching the ball between his teeth. Can an outfielder who nibbles on the grass between pitches succeed? Sadly, this fun book is no longer in print.

The Black Stallion

By Walter Farley,

Book cover of The Black Stallion

Why this book?

From 1941 comes this powerful story of a teenage boy, Alec Ramsay, and his horse. Alec and the wild horse are the sole survivors of a storm-driven shipwreck, marooned together on a desert island. There they must learn to trust each other if either is to survive the ordeal. They eventually develop a strong bond after many fits and starts. I galloped through this gripping adventure story that takes Alec and the Black on an episodic journey together. It also broadened my horizons, as exotic places for a boy from Brooklyn are featured. The book spawned more than a score of sequels, several written by Walter Farley’s son, but the original is as engrossing a horse novel for young readers as you’ll find.


By R.J. Palacio,

Book cover of Pony

Why this book?

I wear two hats. In addition to being a children’s book writer, I’m also the executive copy editor at Random House Books for Young Readers. I had the good fortune recently to work on a new novel from R. J. Palacio, of Wonder fame. It’s a one-of-a-kind Western that seamlessly and skillfully melds the material and the supernatural worlds. And it’s beautifully written and filled with heart-stopping suspense and iconic characters. Pony, a mysterious horse, leads a boy, Silas, on an epic quest to rescue his father from desperadoes. This haunting, deeply moving coming-of-age tale stayed with me long past its completion.

The Winter Horses

By Philip Kerr,

Book cover of The Winter Horses

Why this book?

Philip Kerr has written a riveting survival story set in Nazi-occupied Ukraine. In hiding and desperate to stay alive are a young Jewish girl, Kalinka, whose family had just been slaughtered, and two rare Przewalski’s horses that she befriends and looks after, with all three marked for extermination by the Germans. Historical fact is woven into this enthralling, suspenseful story as the courageous girl and the horses are pursued across the Ukrainian steppes, encountering the best and the very worst of mankind in their bid to survive. The author deftly evokes both the harshness and beauty of winter. I also enjoyed learning about these critically endangered animals, which are said to be the last truly wild horses.

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in horses, survival, and ghost story?

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And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

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