Hello, friends! Our book today is Wild Horse Annie: Friend Of The Mustangs, written by Tracey Fern and illustrated by Steven Salerno.
From childhood, Velma Bronn Johnston’s first love was horses. Her father was a horseman in Nevada who captured wild mustangs and tamed them for sale; he taught Velma to ride and encouraged her passion. When she contracted polio, spending months in a full-body cast and left with a bent spine, facial disfigurement, and full-body chronic pain, horses were her relief and reason to keep going. After marrying and founding a riding school for children, Velma takes notice of the rapidly dwindling numbers and inhumane treatment of the wild mustangs, and devotes her time to having legislation passed to protect them. Beginning with letter-writing campaigns and town hall speeches – and fighting against verbal abuse and death threats – Velma earns the nickname “Wild Horse Annie”, meant to be disparaging until she adopts it with pride. Utilizing a nationwide “pencil brigade” of children to write letters and raise funds in the mustangs’ defense, Johnston’s efforts lead to federal legislation protecting them from harm.
I had never heard of Wild Horse Annie, and I’m so glad that I have now. Her story speaks to every child who marvels at horses, her love for them inspiring her through difficult times. Annie’s sunny yet steely personality shines through each page, and the reader gets a real sense of what’s at stake for both the horses and Annie if they fail (there is a passage that unflinchingly notes that she was threatened with being “hanged from a tree” among other things; subtle streaks of blood are shown on horses that have been abused). I also appreciated how the story focuses on Annie’s thousands of partners: the children who took up the fight for the mustangs and were the tipping point for many politicians on the matter. The illustrations are also lovely, capturing the unique color palette of the American West and Annie’s fierce, unwavering energy. The length makes this better for slightly older bookworms, but we enjoyed it immensely. Baby Bookworm approved!
(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)