Wonder Horse: The True Story of the World's Smartest Horse

( 3 )

Overview

In the late 1800s, former slave and veterinarian Bill "Doc" Key realized that his new foal, Jim, was no ordinary horse. Believing in the power of kindness and patience, Doc taught Jim to spell, recognize the primary colors, and even make change from a cash register!  

Performing in shows across the country, Jim stunned audiences with his incredible skills. But when some people called Jim a fake, Doc set out to prove them wrong and to show the world ...

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Overview

In the late 1800s, former slave and veterinarian Bill "Doc" Key realized that his new foal, Jim, was no ordinary horse. Believing in the power of kindness and patience, Doc taught Jim to spell, recognize the primary colors, and even make change from a cash register!  

Performing in shows across the country, Jim stunned audiences with his incredible skills. But when some people called Jim a fake, Doc set out to prove them wrong and to show the world that, thanks to the power of kindness and patience, Jim was truly a wonder horse.

Caldecott Medalist Emily Arnold McCully’s account of this fascinating, true story comes alive in her striking illustrations.

Wonder Horse is a 2011 Bank Street - Best Children's Book of the Year.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
A horse that recognizes the alphabet, fetches, and dances takes center stage in this true story from the late 19th century. McCully's tale is as much about the beloved and clever animal as it is about his owner and trainer, Bill Key. Born a slave, Bill also is an animal whisperer who "could soothe and... cure just about any creature." Later freed, Bill becomes a veterinarian known as Doc Key, and he spends years training a weak foal named Jim. Taking him on the road, he shows off the horse's many feats. "People will be amazed by how much you know. They will see that animals have feelings, and it's wrong to make them suffer." McCully (Manjiro: The Boy Who Risked His Life for Two Countries) brings the story to life through her watercolors, especially vig-nettes of Jim playing fetch and learning the alphabet. Despite hecklers and the racist attitudes of the Reconstruction-era South (briefly alluded to in the text, and explained more fully in author's notes), Jim and Doc Key are a testament to hard work and the nascent movement for humane treatment of animals. Ages 4-8. (July)
From the Publisher
“This book is sure to grab young readers…. McCully’s signature watercolors make this title as beautiful as it is fun to read, and its humane message is an important oneStarred, School Library Journal

“Caldecott Medalist McCully’s storytelling is as sensitive, engaging, and well paced as her brightly colored, expressive artwork, which highlights the period setting as well as the remarkable friendship between man and horse…A winsome celebration of an extraordinary man and the immeasurable effects of kindness.”— Starred, Booklist   

Young animal lovers will appreciate this as a readaloud as well as a readalone” —The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

In McCully's signature watercolors, Doc and Jim become livelier versions of their portraits in a reproduced photo, while the pre-industrial setting and its rural inhabitants are realized at their bucolic best.” —Horn Book Magazine

McCully’s liquid illustrations make this book a delight to look at and invest Jim with considerable personality.” —Kirkus Reviews

Children's Literature - Sharon Salluzzo
Former slave Bill "Doc" Key wanted to have the fastest horse in the country and ended up with the smartest. His story is one of kindness, patience, tenacity, fearlessness, and chance. Born in 1833 on a slave plantation in the South, Bill became a veterinarian when slavery ended. A foal he hoped would be a champion was instead weak with crooked legs. Jim Key, as that ordinary horse was called, soon won over Bill's heart and began to display a keen intellect. Doc taught it to count and recognize the alphabet and primary colors. They took the show on the road and Jim Key was indeed impressive. Rumors started to circulate that questioned how a former slave could teach all these things to a horse. With the help of Harvard University professors and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Doc and Jim Key entertained thousands of children who pledged to treat animals kindly. Drama and humor are present in both the text and in McCully's full color illustrations. Both propel the reader to turn the pages of this fictionalized account. McCully draws upon events that will appeal to a child, and which demonstrate Doc Key's kindness toward animals. An Author's Note in the back gives further information about the real life of Bill Key and the bibliography provides sources for this information. Reviewer: Sharon Salluzzo
School Library Journal
K-Gr 2—Based on the true story of a remarkable self-made man whose love for animals won him fame and fortune, this book is sure to grab young readers. Bill "Doc" Key was born a slave and had a special way with animals even as a youngster. Following the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation, he worked as a veterinarian and preached the gospel of kindness to all creatures. Despite the racial climate in the Jim Crow South, he joined a medicine show and became wealthy selling a liniment that he invented for both animals and humans. With his newfound wealth, Doc bought a racehorse and bred her in hopes of producing a champion. When the foal was born, his twisted legs meant racing was not in the cards. But Jim Key was an unusual and smart horse, and his antics tickled his owner. Doc set about teaching him to pick out letters and colors, and to count and do arithmetic, and he mastered all of these tasks. Could this horse really do the things he was said to have done? Was it trickery on Doc's part? A team of Harvard professors was brought in to determine exactly what Jim Key could and could not do. McCully's signature watercolors make this title as beautiful as it is fun to read, and its humane message is an important one.—Joan Kindig, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA
Kirkus Reviews
A fictionalized account of the story of Doc Key and his famous horse Jim Key. Born a slave, Doc became known as a doctor to humans even before Emancipation. After the Civil War, he developed a bestselling liniment for both humans and animals. In an era when animals, especially horses, were often treated cruelly, Doc campaigned for kindness and understanding. He raised Jim Key, an orphan foal, from birth; recognizing Jim's intelligence and desire to please, he began to teach him the alphabet. Over several years the horse learned letters, numbers and colors and even to add and subtract. Doc and Jim traveled around the country on exhibition, including at the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair, always emphasizing the importance of kindness to animals. McCully's liquid illustrations make this book a delight to look at and invest Jim with considerable personality. However, she makes one misleading claim: The text says plainly that Harvard professors examined Jim in Doc's absence, but the endnote says that they probably only watched his usual performance. Jim's talents were marvelous enough that they don't need this embellishment, which, sadly, detracts. (bibliography) (Picture book. 6-10)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780805087932
  • Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
  • Publication date: 6/22/2010
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 32
  • Sales rank: 426,883
  • Age range: 4 - 8 Years
  • Product dimensions: 8.70 (w) x 11.20 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Emily Arnold McCully is the author and illustrator of many unforgettable books, including the Caldecott Medal-winning Mirette on the High Wire, Marvelous Mattie, and Manjiro. She divides her time between New York City and Chatham, New York.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 3 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 17, 2014

    Another fantastic historical story retold by McCully that captur

    Another fantastic historical story retold by McCully that captures both parents and children's attention and wonder.  There are great principles and morals of the story as well.  This is a fantastic one for your child's library!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 13, 2013

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    I love it!

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 10, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

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