Black Beauty

By Anna Sewell, Kristen Guest (editor),

Book cover of Black Beauty

Book description

Continuously in print and translated into multiple languages since it was first published, Anna Sewell's Black Beauty is a classic work of children's literature and an important text in the fields of Victorian studies and animal studies. Writing to ""induce kindness, sympathy and an understanding treatment"", Sewell realistically documents the…

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Why read it?

11 authors picked Black Beauty as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

Some books stay with you for a lifetime. Such is the case with Black Beauty for me.

This historical fiction novel (although it wasn’t “Historical” when it was written!”) is considered a classic because of its staying power and message. Anna Sewell’s work inspired the creation of the ASPCA because of the depictions of animal cruelty in the book.

Now, half a century later, it has inspired me to not only write historical fiction horse stories but I also chose to write in first person from the horse’s point of view the way Black Beauty is written.

From M.J.'s list on horses that teens will love.

Sorry, but it’s another story narrated by a horse! Black Beauty has happy foal days on a farm before his life takes one dark turn after another at the hands of cruel and ignorant owners. As a child, the book had a profound effect on me in terms of the cruelty humans visit upon animals and how important it is to be kind to all animals. Written over 150 years ago, the novel gives the reader a glimpse into life in the 19th century. But has anything really changed in the way we view and treat animals today? 

Although considered a children’s book, I never read Black Beauty growing up. I knew the general story line and simply thought it would be painful to ingest. I later learned that Sewell originally intended it as a book for adults, “to induce kindness, sympathy, and understanding of horses.” Fifty years later, I finally picked up the book and found my childhood instincts were right on. It was an exceedingly difficult story to read, particularly since we are learning the story through the eyes of the horse. Of course, when Sewell wrote Black Beauty, horses were used primarily for work,…

It’s not so much the book itself as what it achieved. Hundreds of books were previously written about horses, especially how best to exploit them, but this was the first to let readers experience the human/horse relationship from the viewpoint of the horse. Previously, humans saw horses as a resource to be used up for human convenience like machines. Black Beauty showed us what that was like for the horse. It broke the hearts of readers and changed their attitudes. It broke my own childish heart and taught me to always try to see things from the angle of the…

This classic book was so important to me when I was a child. It not only was about horses, which I obsessed over at the time, but without me even knowing it, it solidified in me the belief that all creatures need and deserve kindness and compassion. As an adult, I see Black Beauty as one of the most influential books of my life, plus I absolutely adore how this book has been so instrumental in changing countless animals’ and humans’ lives for the better.

Despite being written almost 150 years ago, Black Beauty is still one of the absolute classics. Not only is it one of the bestselling books of all time, it’s also been described as the most influential anti-cruelty novel ever.

I love it because it’s told from Black Beauty’s point of view, encouraging readers to see the world from a horse’s eyes.

Black Beauty meets with both kindness and cruelty throughout his life, from his carefree days as a foal to his happy retirement in the country. 

In places it makes for an uncomfortable read, but ultimately it’s an uplifting tale.…

I first read Black Beauty when I was around nine years old and remember crying my way through much of it. This was the first book I’d read that had such an impact and it’s fitting that in the Encyclopedia of Animal Rights and Animal Welfare, Bernard Unti called Black Beauty "the most influential anti-cruelty novel of all time." It's connected to my book because cruelty to horses persists, and this classic voice sparks deep empathy as it speaks for animal welfare. 

From K.L.'s list on horses healing humans.

This is one of the earliest books I remember reading as a child – first in an abridged version (I still remember the illustrations) and then the full text when I was older. It’s an unforgettable classic story inspired by Anna Sewell’s compassion for horses and her despair at the cruelties inflicted on them in Victorian London. We follow Black Beauty from his birth to his old age, as he belongs to various owners and is treated kindly or neglectfully depending on their character and circumstances. Along the way we get to know other horses too, especially proud Ginger and…

From Linda's list on animals and us.

There are many how-to books on training horses out there. Before you fill your bookshelf with them, it’s good to remember how much you love horses. That’s different from how much you love what horses can do for you - the jumps they can carry you over, the ribbons they can win for you. Remember how much you love horses, and remember how much they depend upon us to be kind. It’s all too easy to reach for “get tougher” solutions. Anna Sewell’s childhood classic reminds us to question how horses are handled and to look at what we do…

From Alexandra's list on training horses.

I always assumed that this book was for children only; in fact, as I discovered when Kristen Guest’s excellent edition was published a few years ago, it was written in simple English so that working-class readers with little education would be able to enjoy it. Sewell wrote her novel to try to improve the lives of horses, who were often horribly abused in the nineteenth century. Her book is fascinating for its narrative strategies, and it’s a tremendously powerful story emotionally. It made a real difference to the ways in which horses were treated—and it continues to powerfully influence humans…

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