Anna Sewell (1820-78) was born in Great Yarmouth. She was an invalid for most of her life, following an accident when she was fourteen. Unable to walk properly, she grew to rely on, and to love, the horses which took her around in a cart or trap; a love which moved her to write her only novel. Black Beauty was published only a few months before Anna Sewell's death so, sadly, she was never to learn of it's amazing success. Ian Andrew is a graduate of the Royal College of Art, where he studied Animation. He has illustrated numerous books for children and adults, including Oliver Twist and Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde (Dorling Kindersley), and has a particular talent for bring animal characters to life.
In this abridgement of Sewell's classic story, McKinley has managed nicely to retain Beauty's unique voice as well as the most-remembered stories, while making the text more accessible to younger readers. Jeffers's fine ink illustrations will satisfy even the most demanding of horse-lovers with her ability to capture each horse's personality. This version brings back the sharpness of the cruelty towards Beauty and his companions, and McKinley has rightfully retained the pain and the ugliness of some of the incidents. Children will still weep at the death of Ginger, and Jeffers's portrayal of the barn fire is quite frightening. It's an elegant edition, which will linger with readers until they are ready to tackle the original. (All ages
Gr 2-5 Sewell's classic tale of ahorse's fortunes and adversities has been a favorite since it was written over 100 years ago. Now McKinley offers a new abridgment which, while honing the original almost to spareness, loses none of the beauty of Sewell's poetic prose. Although some of the less important incidents and descriptive passages have necessarily been omitted, there is still every essential element of the plot here to delight readers as Black Beauty's story unfolds. But it is Jeffers' illustrations (pen-and-ink with watercolor wash) that bring this book to a level above the ordinary. Intensely yet sensitively wrought, there is a fine attention to detail, down to veins and quivering nostrils. The horses are never allowed to descend to the anthropomorphic tone of the text, and although Jeffers' human portrayals suffer by comparison with their equine counterparts, they are nonetheless keenly done. Given the demand for simpler versions of children's classics, this one won't stay on the shelf long; it is wonderful as a read-aloud, or for independent readers. Kathleen Brachmann, Highland Park Public Library, Ill.