This one was not really my cup of tea! I tried to listen to it through child's ears and see it through 1947 eyes, but it wasn't easy at all. It was only three disks, so I pushed on through to the other side as they say. Fortunately it was not a Newbery winner, just a runner-up, otherwise I would have flatly refused to read it on that basis alone.
In a prologue which the author wisely includes in chapter one, otherwise I would never have read it, a Spanish galleon wrecks on the shoals of Assateague Island (speaking personally, I'd change that name!) off the coast of Virginia, the horses magically escape and swim ashore, where they adapt and take to life there. This goes to prove how thoroughly worthless and antiquated prologues are, since the same story is perfectly adequately (and with more drama) conveyed in a few sentences in a story told by Paul Beebe, a youngster who is on the island (centuries later) with his sister Maureen.
They're interested in a mare named Phantom, which is a legendary horse they set their sights on owning. For me, this was a big problem with this book. I know sensibilities have changed since 1947, but the avarice displayed in this story is scary - that people can rape and pillage nature without a second thought, taking whatever they want with no consideration for others, or for the consequences of what they're doing - consequences for which we're now paying in spades.
The kids are on the island with their grandfather, who is the pilot of a boat which brought over some guy who is doing some sort of survey on the island. His grandchildren are the aforementioned Maureen and Paul. I thought the grandfather was way-the-hell over the top. He sounds more like a pirate than ever he does a grandfather, and he has all the sensibilities of one, to boot. This is where the two kids set their sights on owning the Phantom, like this wild horse merits ownership and confinement.
The grandfather irritated me to no end. I know there probably are people who speak like him, yet in several years in Virginia I never met one. But that wasn't his worst fault. He talks of people tracing their ancestry back to Jamestown, like they were the first to inhabit these shores, but he has a better idea. No, it's not American Indians - it's the horses!
He says those were the first to live here, and in this he insultingly downgrades American Indians to a lower status than horses. I found the insensitivity displayed here, appalling. Besides, by the time the Spanish were coming here with horses, other Europeans were already resident, so this spiel from gramps is ill-advised whichever way you look at it. He says the first person to tame the horses was a white person, ignoring centuries of relationships between the natives and horses.
It was this kind of thing which made me decide that I cannot rate this positively, regardless of the ending. And it is this kind of stupidity which is what makes me so despise the Neuteredbery Award. It needs to be renamed Get-a-Clue-Bery. I cannot recommend this story and I have no desire to read anything else by this author.