Brief Description: Arabian horse is orphaned and grows up to be prized war horse of Bedouin sheikh, told in first person by the horse. 6th book in a sixteen book series.
Geographical Setting: Arabian Desert, Middle East, Saudi Arabia
Historical Era: 800s, Middle Ages
Date Range: 800s
Keywords: Animals, Bedouins, horses
Original Publication: 2011
Suitable for Grades: 3-7th
Target Audience: Chapter Book, Middle Grade
This novel, the sixth in a sixteen-book series of Horse Diaries, tells the story of an Arabian horse through the horse’s point of view. The story is scant on historical details, but would be an entertaining way of introducing the ancient Bedouin culture to horse-loving children in grades 3 through 7.
The story opens as the newborn filly Yatimah (which means orphan) watches her mother perish from the difficult birth. The mare is the sheikh’s favorite war horse, and in his grief he is loath to pay the new filly any mind. We read of the filly’s growth, her close relationship with the sheikh’s daughter, her training and eventual success as a brave war horse, winning the admiration of the sheikh. The human family in the meantime shifts from place to place in their desert, their camels laden with tents and carpets, the goats and dogs following along. The human way of life involves frequent raids on rival groups to steal horses and livestock, in turn suffering the same treatment. The black and white drawings by Ruth Sanderson help illustrate this ancient lifestyle.
A curious omission to my mind is the avoidance of any mention of the prophet Muhammad or the new religion of Islam given the setting of the novel in the ninth century. The lack of such human-centered concerns demonstrates the limitations of telling any story with a first-person (or first-horse!) animal narrator, allowing little knowledge outside its world experience. Black Beauty by Anna Sewell does this in a much more sophisticated and informative manner, but the target audience for her book was adults who might be able to change conditions for hard-working pre-automobile horses. Despite these drawbacks, I recommend this book for young horse enthusiasts, who might devour the horsey bits of this story and not realize they are learning a bit of history and culture of the Middle East. Back matter includes information on the Arabian Horse breed, their historical importance to the Bedouin lifestyle, and modern uses for Arabians.