Form and Content

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

Marguerite Henry’s Misty of Chincoteague is a thrilling horse story with appeal to readers of all ages. Based on real personalities and true events, the novel occurs in the unusual setting of two little-known islands off Virginia’s eastern shore. Here, wild ponies, supposedly the offspring of shipwrecked Moorish ancestors, are rounded up annually. Pervaded by the salty, Atlantic atmosphere, the book discloses much about the unique lifestyle of Chincoteague islanders and of the free-running ponies that inhabit the neighboring isle of Assateague, which is described as “The Island of Wild Things” where no people live.

Part 1, “Before Misty,” describes the legendary Spanish galleon Santo Cristo swallowed alive by “a wildcat sea”—sparing only one Peru-bound stallion and his fourteen mares, which manage to resurface on the marshes of Assateague Beach. Part 2 recalls two of these survivors’ descendants: the ethereal Phantom and her foal, Misty. Paul and Maureen Beebe, two horse-crazy grade-schoolers, decide during an afternoon outing to Assateague that they will catch and financially claim the formerly elusive Phantom during Chincoteague’s annual Pony Penning Day.

Four months away from this July celebration, the children resolve to earn auction money by raking clams, gathering oysters, catching crabs, and cleaning chicken houses. They bargain with Grandpa to halter-break his colts for extra dollars. They wash...

(The entire section is 497 words.)