Marguerite Henry penned scores of books during her career as a children’s author. Her first book Auno and Tauno debuted in 1940, and her last title, Brown Sunshine of Sawdust Valley hit bookstores in 1996, the year before her death. Titles like the Newbery-winning King of the Wind and beloved Misty of Chincoteague live on in the memories of those children who read and loved them back in the day, and still delight readers in the 21st century. However, there are some unsung heroes of books--books that Marguerite Henry fans might not have even heard of that are worthy of the attention of readers of horse books.
Birds at Home
Over the past two years, as I have researched the life of my favorite author for my upcoming book Marguerite, Misty and Me, I began collecting some of her lesser-known works. The starting point was easy, as my dad owned a copy of Birds at Home, a book that has my grandmother’s cursive on the front interior with my dad’s name, “Johnny.”
Dilly Dally Sally
A short picture book, Dilly Dally Sally published in 1940, is loosely based on Marguerite as a distracted little girl. Her illustrator Gladys Rourke-Blackwood attended the School of the Art Institute in the 1930s, and had a studio on Chicago’s Michigan Avenue. She is credited with being an early creator of paper dolls and the iconic department store Marshall Fields was one of her clients.
Muley Ears, Nobody's Dog
The book Muley Ears, Nobody’s Dog, illustrated by Wesley Dennis, was inspired by lore Marguerite heard while on a vacation in Jamaica with her husband Sidney. Locals talked about a stray dog who befriended all the tourists who would stay at a rental house. The big mixed breed dog who might have had German Shepherd in him, would play with children, swim with beach goers and revel in simple pleasures with the people who crossed his path on the island. He was both nobody’s and everybody’s good boy of a good dog.
Love Marguerite Henry? Read 5 Little-Known Facts about Marguerite Henry.
Robert Fulton, Boy Craftsman
This story takes place in the Colonial Era and centers on a kid from Lancaster, Pennsylvania who started painting thanks to his cat’s thick tail from which he fashioned a paint brush. Flash forward to adulthood and Robert Fulton crosses paths with Benjamin Franklin, goes to England and later plays a role in transportation in the U.S. He was the builder of the first steamboat, the Clermont, which cruised from New York City to Albany and demonstrated the possibilities for steamboat travel.
Pictured Geography Series
Marguerite wrote a series of Pictured Geography books published by Albert Whitman and Company. The cover of the Canada In Story and Pictures is striking. I love the font styles of the 1940s (this one was published in 1943, four years before Misty of Chincoteague), and the vibrant colors.
Little-or-Nothing from Nottingham
Wesley Dennis illustrated this short picture book about a circus dog which was released in 1949. I find it interesting that this whimsical tale of a “vagabond” dog who inserts himself into the lives of the circus folks even though he is NOT good at performing tricks, arrived on the heels of the pinnacle of her literary success. Maybe after all the hard work and research of her Newbery-winning masterpiece King of the Wind, Marguerite just wanted to make something quirky and fun.
Brown Sunshine of Sawdust Valley
This book about a mule was the final book published during Marguerite Henry’s long and beautiful career writing horse books for kids. Bonnie Shields, Marguerite’s illustrator for Brown Sunshine, is one of the amazing people I’ve gotten to know while writing Marguerite, Misty and Me. Bonnie was kind enough to draw an original illustration for my equestrian memoir which digs deep into the backstory of Marguerite and Misty of Chincoteague.
One of the most exciting things about researching for my equestrian memoir is I uncovered several book ideas Marguerite had that never made it to publication. I share details in Marguerite, Misty and Me: a Horse Girl's Hunt for the Hidden History of Marguerite Henry and her Chincoteague Pony. Snag your copy of Marguerite, Misty and Me here.