“The sun was no more than a pink promise. Yet the first horses were already skimming the track, legs winking blackly against the white fence. In the half haze of morning the spider-web sulkies barely could be seen. The drivers seemed floating along on the outflung tails of their horses.” –Born to Trot, Marguerite Henry
From the very first words of this book, one is slung onto the foggy racetrack, alongside tall, slim Gibson White and his old dog, Bear. Marguerite Henry’s delicious word choices paint a vivid picture. Of all the books I have read, Born to Trot carries the most punch in that all-important first paragraph.
Marguerite Henry is the same woman that authored such masterpieces as Misty of Chincoteague, Black Gold, and King of the Wind. Throughout Born to Trot, her excellent descriptions make dusky hotels, quiet hospital rooms, wild grandstands, and cozy stables come alive.
“…packed with information as well as vivid accounts of exciting races.” –The New York Times
Like some of Henry’s other classics, Born to Trot is based off the real Gibson White, his father, and the record-breaking trotting filly. I would have included a short summary of the book, but there’s hardly any way to do it without giving away the plot! Henry’s unique writing style gives the reader something to take in at every point of the story, even at dull times.
That brings me to another point. Born to Trot does have a special attribute I don’t often encounter in most books. During a slow spot, Gibson receives an old book from a friend. It’s the story of Rysdyk’s Hambletonian, the ancestor of trotting horses and the greatest of them all. Gibson reads it, chapter by chapter, but instead of simply writing about Gibson’s experience, Henry writes a book within a book. A bonus feature. It keeps the reader engaged during a period in Gibson’s life that would otherwise be tedious.
I can’t remember a time when this book was not on my shelf. Being a southern gal and an admirer of horses besides, Born to Trot has always been a top read on my list. The world of harness racing is one that often goes unnoticed, as opposed to horse races like the Kentucky Derby. Harness racing is an art in itself, because it makes a sort of music.
“But to the boy the most exciting music of all was the snare-drum roll of hoofbeats, the trotters picking them up, putting them down, tap-tap, tap-tap, playing their own fanfare to the day.” –Born to Trot, Marguerite Henry