JULY 26:

  • Happy birthday Jan Berenstain (Berenstain Bears series).
  • In 1775 the U.S. Postal service was established. Benjamin Franklin served as the first postmaster general. Read Ben and Me by Robert Lawson.
  • In 1788, New York was the eleventh state to ratify the U.S Constitution.
  • Happy birthday to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (F.B.I.) established in 1908. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was also established on this day in 1947 by the U.S. National Security Act. Read Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko and Deterring and Investigating Attack: The Role of the FBI and CIA by Jennifer Keeley.
  • It’s All or Nothing Day. Read Nothing At All by Wanda Ga’g and How to Do Nothing With Nobody All Alone By Yourself by Robert Paul Smith, illustrated by Elinor Goulding Smith.

On Chincoteague Island, the annual pony penning contest is taking place at the end of July. Since 1925, around 50,000 people gather each year to watch 150 wild ponies herded off Assateague Island. They swim across the channel, are rounded up, examined, and auctioned. If you aren’t in Virginia at this time, you can watch some clips from the event on YouTube.

Or, even better, you can read Marguerite Henry’s Misty of Chincoteague. Henry’s editor encouraged her to write about the pony penning on the island, and Henry and her illustrator Wesley Dennis headed to Virginia to make sketches, take photographs, and get a sense of the place. She visited the Beebe Ranch and saw one of their horses, marked with a white map of America on her coat. Because Henry desperately wanted this animal to come stay with her in Illinois, she bargained with Mr. Beebe, offering to make his children the two main characters in her novel. Henry kept her word and wrote a story about Maureen and Paul Beebe who long for one of the wild ponies, descendants of a stallion named Fire Chief who was traveling on a Spanish ship that went down in a gale. The children eventually manage to raise enough money to buy Misty.

After Henry returned to her home, Misty came to stay in her household. When Henry wrote, she brought Misty into her studio and even allowed the horse access to the living room. Once the story was finished, Henry took the horse on book tour, and Misty sold a lot of copies. Henry visited schools, libraries, and book shows. In 1948, when Henry won the Newbery Medal for King of the Wind, she even brought Misty to the American Library Association Annual Convention in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where Misty was made an honorary member of the ALA—probably the only horse to become one. Modern children’s book authors often consider themselves quite clever when it comes to book promotion—but I have never seen any idea as brilliant as touring with Misty of Chincoteague.

Misty eventually returned to the Beebe farm, had colts, and lived to the age of twenty-six. Because some of the ranch has been preserved, those who visit the island can still see it. In fact, most of the people who are now on Chincoteague to witness pony-penning days come to these events because of this beloved book, one of the greatest horse stories ever told.

A section from Misty of Chincoteague:

On the shores of Chincoteague the people pressed forward, their faces strained to stiffness, as they watched Assateague Beach.“Here they come!” The cry broke out from every throat.

Maureen, wedged in between Grandpa Beebe on one side and a volunteer fireman on the other, stood on her mount’s back. Her arms paddled the air as if she were swimming and struggling with wild ponies.

Suddenly a fisherman, looking through binoculars, began shouting in a hoarse voice, “A new-borned colt is afeared to swim! It’s knee-deep in the water, and won’t go no further.”





Originally posted July 26, 2011. Updated for .

Tags: Animals, Geography, Horses
Instructional materials from TeachingBooks.net for Misty of Chincoteague


  1. Sarah says:

    I have never been horse crazy like many little girls are, but after reading this book I have determined that I will go to the pony penning some day!

  2. suzi w. says:

    I wasn’t horse crazy either, but somehow I read these as a girl and loved them. I think it’s time for a re-read. And yes, touring with Misty is the best book promotion concept I’ve ever heard.

    And somehow I love the ALA even more for making Misty an honorary member.

    Funny the books that wouldn’t have been written if an editor hadn’t said, hey, go write about this. That’s one of the things I love about your almanac, because you make sure those folks get their due. Makes sense, since you worked as one of those folks.

    (Where do you get all your ideas? Sometimes, it’s an assignment from my editor!)

  3. Cindy Klemme/Chris says:

    We carefully select read alouds, exploring every genre, and truly developing units to incorporate drama, music, movement, and of course to enhance reading and writing skills. We felt this selection was a risk because such few children have horse experiences. It turned out to be the most fabulous read aloud and we know that primarily because the other books in the series appeared, parents commented, numerous reflections of the book throughout the school year, and of course the children couldn’t wait for our daily read loud time.

  4. Anita says:

    Suzi: I often comment on what I myself find interesting. Usually, our classics come from books that writers personally need to create. But Misty came about because of the idea of someone else, Henry’s editor.

  5. Lisa B.Harvey says:

    My sister loved Marguerite Henry’s books when we were little girls. It is a true classic.

    I am more inclined to favor Faith Ringgold’s books. I was just going through the almanac and saw her page from yesterday. I was fortunate to meet Faith Ringgold in 2001 at Middlebury College where she was having a show. She is truly a larger than life figure, her presence is amazing, she is full of grace and wisdom.

    We have copies of her “Tar Beach” and also “My Dream of Martin Luther King” both signed; we cherish them.

  6. Anita says:

    Lisa: How wonderful that you got to meet her and see the show. I only managed the latter and was simply amazed by her story quilts.

  7. I was nuts about horses even though I lived in SE Washington DC. Collected horse figurines. Read My Friend Flicka, The Island Stallion and sequels, The Black Stallion and sequels, King of the Wind, Misty, and just about any book I could get my hands on. I know psychologists have something to say about girls and horses, but I don’t want to look too closely. I just loved them.

  8. G.Perry says:

    This book is clearly early days in simplicity. It’s filled with kindness and life affirming scenes, I loved it, and there is also an old film that’s still around based on this book which small children love. However you have to read this book to be a part of what’s going on inside the thinking life of the horses because that is completely lost in the film. I do like the film but you have to be in the book, to be with those special children and horses. (A child can feel safe, and dream unmet needs, being a part of this book.)

    While I didn’t have children’s books growing up, I did have access to three horses. My first encounter with a horse was a flash of thunderstruck magic for the little boy I was. There was some kind of instantaneous understanding and a sense of belonging with that creature, and I never got over that, or want to. It was also obvious to others that horses like me for reasons no one understood. Dunno what it was. Probably being surrounded by worthless adults and needing a decent living soul to get close to. I think horses know things about you, you may not even know yet, if ever.

    To this day, I pull off the road, lean against the field side of the car,and just watch horses graze.

    They make me happy.

  9. Connie Rockman says:

    I’m with you, Leda … read every horse book I could find. It was wish-fulfillment of the finest kind for a 10 year old. And this reminds me of an old promise to myself that I would go to Chincoteague some day … time for a re-read and a journey … thanks for the nudge, Anita.

  10. Arita says:

    One of the gals you met at MAZZA is at Chincoteague as of the 23rd. This is at least the 3rd time she and her husband have gone for the swim across, the penning, and the auction. She has shared her experiences and pictures of this event. She will be really excited to hear/see that you featured Misty and this yearly event!

  11. Kathleen T. says:

    Thank you for the recommendation, Anita. I work at a small public library and today a young girl requested a book about a horse. It was great to have your review at my fingertips!

  12. VermontMomster says:

    I loved all of Henry’s books as a child! While my older sister took horseback riding lessons, I was not allowed (my parents thought I was asking for lessons simply because my sister was taking them.) Since I was reading about all kinds of animals at that time, my parents didn’t realize how strongly I felt about horses! I had to be content with having a pet rabbit. Now, I have three horses of my own (in addition to other animals!) I read Misty at least once every five years, but haven’t been to Chincoteague yet! Thanks for the background about the author touring with the horse!

  13. Kell Andrews says:

    I always loved this story — have the books and the Breyer models of Misty and Stormy. Somehow, I even had a Little Golden Book ABOUT Marguerite Henry and the writing of Misty — I wish I still had it because it was so unusual. The part I remember most is that Henry bought Misty, intending to write about her, but it was winter time so the map of America on Misty’s side was obscured by her shaggy winter coat.

  14. Lisa Rogers says:

    Misty was a touchstone book for me. When I finally was able to visit Chincoteague with my family, it was a dream come true for me and my horse-loving daughter. She had read all of Henry’s books, just like I had, and inherited my horse figurines. In Chincoteague, she had her first riding lessons on a Misty descendant and island horses grazed outside our hotel. Marguerite Henry gave horse lovers a wonderful gift!

  15. Lisa says:

    I was one of those horse loving girls and tried to read this book more than once. I never made it through. This makes me want to go back and read it as an adult to figure out why I couldn’t read the whole book.

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