We read Black Beauty as a class several years ago, and all three of us enjoyed it immensely. Told from the point of view of the horse, Black Beauty addresses the issues of kindness to animals proper treatment of horses.
Anna Sewell slipped and injured her ankle as a teenager, making her unable to stand without a crutch or walk for any length of time. She became dependent on horses because carriages were a must in her life. She came to love the animals and to deplore their treatment by so many people of her time. In her own words, Sewell wrote Black Beauty “to induce kindness, sympathy, and an understanding treatment of horses.”
(Cool tidbit–Black Beauty was the first-ever popular novel told from the POV of an animal. Without it, we might not have such wondrous books as Watership Down, The Wind in the Willows, or Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh. Think about that for a sec.)
We learned so much about horses by reading this book. If you want your littles to get even more out of it, try some of the following activities to get them thinking.
Black Beauty Activities
To get a better understanding of Black Beauty, your child does not have to do every single one of these activities. Picking a few from each category will work.
- Pretend you are Black Beauty and write an entry about the meadow where you were born
- Write an entry describing Beauty’s breaking-in. How would you feel if you were beauty? How did the trainer treat him?
- Write an entry describing Birtwick Park and how Beauty feels to be living there
- Describe Ginger and Merrylegs and explain why Beauty likes them
- Write an entry that tells about Beauty’s life at Birtwick Farm
- What are your feelings about the stories told of cruel masters by Merrylegs and Ginger?
- Write an entry about how it would feel if someone cropped your ears (or other body part) against your will to make them look ‘prettier’
- Describe the stable fire from the point of view of the horses trapped inside
- Write an entry from Beauty’s point of view about the approaching move of the Gordons and his move to another farm
- Describe Earlshall
- Write an entry from Ginger’s point of view describing her rebellion against the check reins
- Tell of the walk home from the White Lion from Robert’s point of view
- Describe Beauty’s recuperation and his time of rest in the meadow
- Make up your own version of what happened to Ginger to cause her to be left in the meadow to rest
- How would you feel if different people paid to tell you what to do every day? Write an entry about it.
- Make up a story about a day when a very good driver hired Beauty from the livery
- Imagine if you hired someone to take care of your pet and they stole the pet’s food. What would you do?
- Describe the horse fair from your own point of view
- Write an entry about the life of a cab horse
- Write an entry about what it would be like to be a war horse
- Write an entry about why it was wrong for Larry to steal Jerry’s customers and drive the horse too fast
- Imagine you had to work every single day without ever having a day of rest and write about it
- Imagine you are a cab horse in winter and describe your day
- Write an entry describing Ginger’s time with one of her owners since she left Earlshall
- Write an entry about how Harry may have better handled the boys who splashed mud on Dolly’s dress
- Pretend you are one of the men who tried to steal the cab from the young woman with the sick child. What might have been so important that you would be so rude?
- Pretend you are Hotspur and write about your first week as a cab horse
- Write an entry about going to live near Mrs. Fowler from Dolly’s point of view
- Pretend you are the little girl who didn’t want to overload Beauty’s cab and write an entry about the day Beauty collapsed
- Imagine you are the young boy who wanted to buy Beauty at the horse sale and write about how excited you are that your grandfather bought him
- Describe Beauty’s last home
Write a letter
- From Beauty to his mother telling her he will never forget all the things she taught him
- From Beauty to the animals and people of Farmer Grey’s farm telling them goodbye
- From Beauty to John Manly explaining why he misses his freedom
- From Merrylegs to her first master telling him how he scarred her emotionally and how it has affected her life
- From Sir Oliver to his masters explaining why they shouldn’t have cut off his tail
- From Squire Gordon to Beauty thanking him for all his heroic efforts
- From Squire Gordon’ wife to Beauty thanking him for fetching the doctor
- From John to Joe’s father telling him why Joe’s ignorance of caring for a sick horse is just as bad as intentional cruelty
- From Joe to John apologizing for not caring for Beauty correctly
- From Squire Gordon to Beauty and Ginger explaining why he must sell them to Lord Westland
- From Beauty to John telling him goodbye and why he will miss him
- From Ginger to Lady Westland telling her how bad the check reins hurt her
- From Blantyre to Beauty thanking him for running so swiftly after Lady Anne and the runaway horse
- From the hostler at the White Lion to Reuben Smith explaining why he should take care of the loose nail in Beauty’s shoe
- From Beauty to Smith telling him why he shouldn’t drink
- From Beauty to Robert thanking him for his care when leading Beauty home
- From Beauty to Ginger telling her how he misses her while he’s alone in the meadow
- From Ginger to George reprimanding him for driving her too hard
- From York to the man in Bath offering Beauty for sale
- From Beauty to one of the drivers who hired him at the livery stables explaining how they could better drive a horse
- From Beauty to the farmer thanking him for removing the stone in his shoe
- From Rory to Beauty telling him what it’s like to cart coal
- From Peggy to her drivers asking them to slow down to accommodate her short legs
- From Mr. Barry to Filcher accusing him of stealing oats
- From Filcher to his son apologizing for involving him in the theft
- From Beauty to Mr. Barry telling him the truth about how Alfred Smirk treats him
- From Beauty to the grey-eyed man thanking him for buying him at the horse fair
- From Beauty to John Manly telling him how much Jerry reminds Beauty of him
- From Beauty to Jerry explaining why it was so hard to get used to London
- From Beauty to Jerry Barker telling him why he was the best man he ever knew
- From the young fellow who needed to catch the train to Jerry thanking him for getting him there on time
- From Jerry to Mr. Briggs explaining in detail why he won’t work on Sunday
- From Polly to Dinah Brown telling her Jerry will drive her to her mother in the cab
- From Beauty to Mr. Wright telling him how much he is admired for his habit of standing up to cruelty
- From Seedy Sam to the government explaining why fares should be hire for cabs
- From Beauty to Ginger telling her how sorry he is that her life got so bad
- From the butcher to his customers asking them to place orders a day in advance
- From the young woman with the sick child to Jerry thanking him for the ride to the hospital
- From Captain to the drunk driver who lamed him telling how his life had been ruined by the accident
- From Beauty to Hotspur welcoming him to the cab business
- From the governor to Jerry hoping he will get well soon
- From Beauty to Jerry telling him goodbye
- From Beauty to the lady who helped him when he was struggling up the hill thanking her for her kindness
- From Willie to his grandfather thanking him for buying Beauty
- From Beauty to Willie and Mr. Thoroughgood thanking them for their wonderful care of him
- From Joe Green to John Manly telling him Beauty has come to Joe’s stable
- Research the history of horse breaking. Are practices different today than they were in Black Beauty’s time?
- Research blinkers. Why are they used? Are they still used today? How do they affect horses?
- Research the human practice of cutting parts from animals for aesthetic reasons: having tails trimmed or ears cropped
- Research the practices of doctors in the late 1800s
- Research bearing or check reins
- Research the life of a 19th century invalid
- Research Steeplechases
- Research moving animals by train
- Research ‘thrush’
- Research late 19th century cab licenses
- Research 19th century British political party colors
- Research Christmas in late 19th century Britain
- Research bronchitis treatments in 19th century Britain
- Paint Black Beauty as a colt in the meadow
- Make paper bag versions of Beauty, Ginger, and Merrylegs
- Create a carriage from a paper plate or other household objects
- Make a stable or barn from craft sticks
- Craft a taxi, either modern or antique
- Draw Beauty on the train journey
- Draw a chalk pastel of Beauty at his final home
I mean, that’s a lot of activities for a truly classic novel. So have fun. And learn a little about why you should be kind even to animals.
Need a printable to do the work on?
Well, okay. Download this free printable to do your journal entries and letter writing on!
Looking for activities for more chapter books? Check out: