Wonder Horse :
the true story of the world's smartest horse
by Emily Arnold McCully
This book has multiple entry points. The illustrations, love for animals, Civil War, slavery, as well as a tie to local history (for my students)- Harvard scientists!
From the publisher: 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.
I have used this book with children in the 3rd through 5th grades. We look at this story as one of perseverance within the context of history as well as outside of it. I use the author's note liberally in my lessons with this book, as it helps lead the discussions. When questions arise, we write them down and research further, we dig in. What if Jim Key were a white man at this time? Would people have more readily believed him? Have you faced difficulties or injustices in your life? Have you witnessed them in another's life? How can you affect change? How did Doc affect change?
And because I am a librarian, I also take this opportunity to introduce primary sources from the Tennessee Virtual Archive. : )