HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: The Little White Horse
Author: Elizabeth Goudge
Cover Illustrator: Barry Jones
Publisher: Puffin Books, republished 2001
Related website: http://www.penguin.com/youngreaders (publisher)
Language level: 1 (the euphemism “darned” is used just once)
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Recommended reading level: Ages 10-14
Rating: ***** 5 stars (EXCELLENT)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Goudge, Elizabeth. The Little White Horse (published in 1946 by Coward McCann; republished in 2001 by Puffin Books, an imprint of Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers, a division of the Penguin Group, 345 Hudson St., New York City, NY 10014). It is 1842, and thirteen year old orphan Maria Merryweather must move with her governess Miss Jane Heliotrope and her little dog Wiggins, a King Charles Spaniel, from her home in London following the death of her father to live with her closest relative, a second cousin named Benjamin Merryweather, at his manor house called Moonacre near the village of Silverydew in the West Country. There she makes friends with the coachman Digweed, the cook Marmaduke Scarlet and his cat Zachariah, the gatekeeper Loveday Minette and her son Robin, the Old Parson of the Silverydew church, and the huge dog Wrolf, named after their ancestor Sir Wrolf Merryweather who built Moonacre. The Manor seems like home right away, and Maria feels as if she’s entered Paradise.
However, there is something incredibly sad beneath all of this beauty and comfort because the whole Moonacre Valley is under a curse as a result of a tragedy that happened years ago, and it has something to do with the wicked Men of the Dark Woods. Exactly what is the problem? How can it be solved? And is there anything that Maria can do to help? We recently watched a movie entitled The Secret of Moonacre which is partially based on this book. We enjoyed the film, so I decided to read the book which was a winner of the Carnegie Medal. There are a few references to drinking wine or beer, and the euphemism “darned” is used once. But basically this is a lovely and reasonably exciting fantasy story, like a fairy tale where everyone lives happily ever after.
Feminists do not like this book because while the heroine is a strong character, she is portrayed in a very traditional light. One reviewer complained, “There are many lessons that girls can learn from this book. The three that I found most obnoxious were: Curiosity is unbecoming and will lead you astray. Adults will tell you what you need to know, when you need to know it. Never argue with your man. Arguing could curse a whole village. The best of all possible fates is to marry your childhood sweetheart and have ten children….I realize that I’m speaking for a small minority (maybe a minority of one) when I say it gave me indigestion.” Folks on the left need to lighten up. While they’re out there promoting sex-capade books like those by Judy Blume to young people, there are yet many of us who enjoy stories that illustrate traditional values. I agree with another reviewer who wrote, “This book is such a lovely gem!”