Saturday, August 23, 2014

‘A Horse for Henry’ — Kaye Spencer’s memories of a treasured childhood book

When I was eight or nine years old, my parents gave me a hardback book called A Horse for Henry. At that age, I identified with the main character, Henry, because he wanted his own horse more than anything in the whole wide world, and so did I. What my parents wanted me to take away from this story was the theme of responsibility and that certain privileges had to be earned by demonstrating responsible behaviors.

Somewhere in the process of growing up, I not only forgot about the book but, as Kris Kristofferson wrote, I lost it somewhere, somehow along the way. So, a couple of years ago, I decided to search for it. Patience and time paid off, because I located three paperback copies, which I have tucked away, hopefully to share someday with an interested grandchild.

You’ll notice the author’s name is not on the cover (or anywhere else in the book), which makes me sad. The inside cover has a little bit of information about the book. The publisher was Whitman Publishing Company in Racine, Wisconsin, and the Roman numerals translate to a 1952 copyright date. The illustrations certainly pigeonhole the book as classic 1950s and early 1960s style, but they also bring up fond reading memories since I am of the generation who learned to read with Dick, Jane, and Sally and “See Spot run”, which share the same type of illustrations.

A Horse for Henry goes like this…

What Henry wants most is a black colt named Shine, but he hasn’t shown that he’s dependable enough to take care of a horse. He leaves a saddle out in the rain. He forgets to load the salt in the chuck wagon. He leaves the corral gate open, and the horses get out. His dad tells him, “Son, when you can do a man’s work and do it right, you can have a horse.”

Just when it looks like Henry will always have to ride the family’s pet mule and never get a horse of his own, through some quick thinking on his part, he saves his little brother (and himself) from a cougar.

The next morning, Henry wakes to find Shine tied outside his window, and his dad says, “You’re a man now, Henry, and a man can’t get along very well without a horse of his own.”

From my adult’s perspective, I look back on the popularity of the traditional western novels, western television shows and movies, and perhaps even some of the country music during the era when A Horse for Henry was published, and I see this story as a post-WWII children’s slant on the Old West theme of “what makes a man a man”.

This story, and its message, has stayed with me all these years and, every time I reread it, I remember why.

 * * * *

Just for fun, here I am with my first horse, a Welsh pony named Corky. In the left-hand picture, I was riding in the Howdy Days Parade in Fort Morgan, Colorado in August 1964. The right-hand picture was at the Morgan County Fair in Brush, Colorado in August 1965 (4-H).

Until next time,

Fall in love…faster, harder, deeper with Kaye Spencer romances
Twitter - @kayespencer


  1. Kaye,

    Tucked away in boxes, I have many of my favorite books from my childhood. One especially, a little red book full of wonderful fairy tales remains a favorite. I have already shared it several times with many of my nieces. I hope to share it again. I know exactly what you are talking about.


    1. Charlie,

      Another book from my childhood that I'd like to get my hands on is 'Broomtail' by Miriam E. Mason, but the price tag is steep. The only place I've located it is on Amazon:

  2. Somehow I missed this one, but it brought back memories of some of my favorite reads during those years of my life. The Black Stallion series is the first to come to mind.

    Thanks for the chance to revisit some of my book memories. If I weren't working...Sigh. Doris

    1. Doris,

      Thanks for stopping by. I understand about working. I'm furiously writing to finish my PRP Halloween story by the deadline.

      But isn't it fun? ;-)

    2. Yes, it is. I am working on a story also, but don't know if I will make deadline or not. Was called into work more than usual the past couple of weeks. Still the story will be written and will find a home somewhere.

      Best on your upcoming one. I am so looking forward to all the stories coming out this fall from PRP Doris

  3. What a wonderful story. A great memory for you. I wanted a pony as a kid, but a city kid is not likely to get one--and I didn't. My bicycle (a hand-me-down) from my oldest sister became my "pony." Great post, Kaye.

    1. Sarah,

      I had a bicycle, too, but it was challenging to keep the tires up because I only had dirt roads with goat head stickers to ride on. lol

  4. Kaye, I have kept (or my MOM kept for me!) many childhood books that I loved so much. One of my favorites was the Little Golden Book called The Color Kittens. That was also a fave with my daughter, who loved cats and painting/coloring from the time she learned what it was. I had a book called The Bumper Book, that had all kinds of wonderful stories and pictures in it. Also, a glorious set of books called The Bookhouse Books--beautiful illustrations and wonderful stories. I would never part with those in a million years. I'm sorry I missed A Horse for Henry--that would have been one of my favorites, I'm sure. And what a shame they didn't put the author's name on there!

  5. Cheryl,

    I have a Little Golden Book called 'The Four Little Kittens'. I give it a lot of credit for the reason I'm such a softy when it comes to taking in animals in need of a home, especially cats. Here it is on Amazon:

    And it is a dirty rotten shame that the author of A Horse for Henry isn't credited anywhere in the book.

  6. I'm sure the author wrote the book as "work for hire," meaning he or she got a flat pay rate and no byline.

    I recently hunted down and purchased a beloved book I'd read as a child, "King of the Wind: The Story of the Godolfin Arabian." Marguerite Henry wrote with such passion about the relationship between a stable boy and a stunning horse who was the color of the sun. I read every horse book in the school library but this was my favorite.

    1. Vonn,

      "A horse the color of the sun" makes me think of Tennessee Ernie Ford singing "The Tennessee Stud": ...The Tennessee Stud was long and lean.
      The color of the sun and his eyes were green.
      He had the nerve and he had the blood.
      There never was a horse like Tennessee Stud.


    2. That's right! And when was the last time we had a good old horse song in the Top 40?