The primary message of Misty of Chincoteague concerns the mutual need between people and animals. Paul and Maureen have set their hearts on acquiring ownership of an elusive mare “for our very own.” Because Grandpa is one of the few “horsemen” rather than “watermen” on Chincoteague, they have assisted him in the training and sales of all his ponies; parting with their charges has been consistently painful. Their longing for an animal with whom they will never have to sever attachment is a feeling experienced by many people, especially in childhood. In their schemes to obtain Phantom, Paul and Maureen equate ownership with that unbreakable bond.
When Grandpa learns that Paul’s plan to ensnare Phantom is the secret that inspired the children’s additional employments, he warns him: “The Phantom don’t wear that white map on her withers for nothing. It stands for Liberty, and ain’t no human being going to take her liberty away from her. . . . She ain’t a hoss. She ain’t even a lady. She’s just a piece of wind and sky.” Yet, the children still believe, on the basis of their own instinctive longings, that “Phantom wants to come to us.”
Emerging early in the novel is the psychological reality of interdependence among people, as well as that between people and animals. This need is apparent in the islanders cooperative efforts during the pony penning and in the collective spirit displayed when Paul and Phantom...
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Marguerite Henry’s books are clearly classics that will hold a permanent place of honor in juvenile literature. They are timeless because of their universally important themes regarding relationships between animals and humans and because they appeal so immediately to audiences of all ages. Misty of Chincoteague was awarded the Newbery Medal and secured Henry’s status as a world-famous author. Motion picture versions of the novel and of several of Henry’s other animal stories, such as Brighty of the Grand Canyon (1953) and Justin Morgan Had a Horse (1945), have been enthusiastically received. Several sequels to Misty of Chincoteague have also enjoyed popularity, such as Sea Star, Orphan of Chincoteague (1949) and Stormy, Misty’s Foal (1963).
Henry’s style is careful, concise, and purposeful. Her dialogue supports her developments of plot and character, and she delights in the use of appropriate regional vernacular. Her works emerge from meticulous research and extensive travels, and her settings encompass many diverse areas of the United States and Europe. Henry has created charming characters from various horses, dogs, cats, birds, foxes, and mules. Her animal and human characterizations are convincing, the interactions between them utterly believable. Her imaginative works promote wholesome values and positive, optimistic outcomes. Henry’s gifts as a storyteller are supreme; her works win and retain the attention of their young readers.
Misty of Chincoteague resulted in the development of a burgeoning tourist industry to Chincoteague Island and its July Pony Penning events, as well as to Assateague Island, which was named a national wildlife refuge. The Chincoteague Pony Association and other organizations have sprung from the ever-escalating public interest that Marguerite Henry’s series has done so much to generate.