Told from the point of view of a young girl who masquerades as a boy in order to become a groom, this is the other side of the classic horse story BLACK BEAUTY. Aspiring groom Jo comes to love Beauty and when they are separated she travels to London to find him – on the way solving the mystery of her long-lost mother. A sweeping tale of a young girl and her love for a horse, and the circumstances that divide them.
Published by Scholastic on 6th Oct 2016
Fiction Fascination: 10 Random Facts about
Finding Black Beauty by Lou Kuenzler
Thank you so much for inviting me to share ten things about my new book:
1. My new children’s book, Finding Black Beauty was written in 2016 and is inspired by Anna Sewell’s classic horse story, Black Beauty, which was written in 1887.
2. Black Beauty was one of my favourite books when I was a child. I loved it because it is a fast-paced, ever-moving adventure story … and also because it made me cry. I did (and still do) love a book that let’s me have a good weep.
3. I even managed to make myself cry when I was writing my version of the story. I hope readers will have a little sob too. I think the feeling of release when you give yourself over to fiction is a wonderful thing. We should not be afraid to allow young readers to feel things deeply too – especially as they can always close the book and walk away afterwards. My hope is that they’ll feel refreshed and revived and ready to face the real world again!
4. The original Black Beauty has sold over 40 million copies. Sadly, Anna Sewell died very shortly after she finished the novel and did not live long enough to see any of this success.
5. In my version of the story, the narrator is not the horse himself (as in the original) but a young girl disguised as a stable lad. Pretending to be a boy is the only way she can get to work with horses in Victorian England. This was a wonderful way to explore issues of gender, history and class alongside the adventure which drives the story.
6. I used many different books and materials to research the life of a groom in the nineteenth century, including wonderful trips to two country house estates where the stables have been carefully preserved. If you love history, and particularly the history of servant life, do try and visit Audley End House in Essex http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/audley-end-house-and-gardens/ and Shugborough in Staffordshire http://www.shugborough.org.uk/Homepage.aspx. I know there are also wonderful stables (including sleeping quarters) at Burton Constable near Hull. http://www.burtonconstable.com/stables-and-parkland/the-stables. I hope to be able to visit later this year.
7. One of the most dismissive facts I discovered about servant life is that grand families would sometimes not even bother to learn a new servant’s name. Thus, if
their original footman had been called George, all the footmen would be George thereafter – no mater if they were really James, or Peter, or John … I use this fact to bring tension to a scene at the heart of my book.
8. This is the first time I have used a classic story as an inspiration for my own work. I thought it would be daunting. In fact I very quickly felt a sense of enormous freedom. Anna Sewell’s wonderful story was only a jumping off point; no matter how I interpreted that inspiration, the original would still be there – unblemished – for readers to discover for themselves or return to at any point they wished.
9. I was lucky enough to grow up on a farm where I had my own pony and rode nearly every day. I hardly ever get the chance now but was excited to have a go recently as Finding Black Beauty had rekindled wonderful memories of the wind in my hair, galloping flat out.
10. I fell off … But, just like writing books, riding is all about perseverance. So battered, bruised and slightly wiser; I hope, I got back in the saddle and carried on. I am also about to start work on a new book too …