Mustang, Wild Spirit of the West was written by Marguerite Henry and illustrated by Robert Lougheed. First published in 1966, it is the absorbing account of “Wild Horse” Annie’s fight to save the American Mustang.  This true life story of Velma “Annie” Bronn Johnston is fictionalized by the children’s novelist famous for such titles as Misty of Chincoteague and King of the Wind.

Since early girlhood, Annie loves horses. She and her father work together with them at their home in Nevada. There are close family ties between mother, father, and grandmother. When a little brother comes along, things shift a little, and then change entirely when Annie gets polio. The treatment her parents find to cure Annie leaves her permanently disfigured, and her little brother dies from polio while she is in the hospital recovering. Although this is a painful time, Annie learns huge life lessons from her suffering and is soon embracing the beauty of nature and the joy of working with horses again.

Annie feels that God has a special purpose for her life. After she marries, she and her husband take up the cause of the wild Mustangs. With camera and pen, Annie documents the torturous airplane and truck roundups that bring the herds in for sale to pet food factories.

Although Annie doesn’t feel qualified to pursue this cause politically, she gets help and advice from her father and respected politicians. With the support of her husband, community leaders, and grass roots campaigns started by horse-loving children, Annie takes her fight to the highest levels in Washington, D.C., to win legislation protecting the wild horses.

This book is a good read for middle grade children who love horses. (Adults may also find it interesting; I found it hard to put down.) Rural children may be more aware of the issues of life and death surrounding animals than urban children. There is violence against one dog and many horses by unfeeling people in this story. There are a few swear words in idiomatic phrases. Annie’s romance is very mild—shared friendship growing into a life-long commitment. In the epilogue, we learn of the death of both her husband and her father.

Mentoring and community are repeated themes. The book demonstrates the value of perseverance, encourages hope and shows the glow of the human spirit. It offers the belief that there will always be American Mustangs roaming free.

The story is told in the first-person. It is cheerful in tone, but engrossing. Mustang, Wild Spirit of the West has lively line drawings by Robert Lougheed. The book runs over 200 pages.

This book is currently available at stores, libraries, and online at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and Christianbook.com.

Donna Fujimoto is a graduate of Alliance Theological Seminary. She has published both devotionals for adults and short stories for teens. Her children love to read.

Mrs. Fujimoto has a collection of short stories, 9 Slightly Strange Stories with an Uplifting Edge, available as an e-reader at Amazon. Find our review under “N” in the alphabetical listing: Titles We’ve Reviewed.

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