Beautiful Jim Key: The Lost History of the World’s Smartest Horse by Mim Eichler Rivas
Synopsis (from Amazon): Beautiful Jim Key — the one-time ugly duckling of a scrub colt who became one of the most beloved heroes of the turn of the century — was adored not for his beauty and speed but rather for his remarkable abilities to read, write, spell, do mathematics, even debate politics. Trained with patience and kindness by one of the most renowned horse whisperers of his day — former slave, Civil War veteran, and self-taught veterinarian Dr. William Key — Jim performed in expositions across the country to wildly receptive crowds for nine glorious years, smashing box office records, clearing towering hurdles of skepticism and prejudice, and earning the respect and admiration of some of the most influential figures of the era, from Booker T. Washington to President William McKinley.
Review: I finally feel settled enough to publish two reviews a week again — yippee!! Just a refresher — my Sunday Salon reviews are books that I have checked out from the library or borrowed from a friend, so they are not available for me to give away to readers. Hopefully the Sunday Salon reviews spark ideas for you and your book club! So, on to my review!
I love horses and have two of my own, but when my new riding partner told me about a horse from the turn of the nineteenth century that could spell, count, and even compute, I was highly suspect. However, after reading Beautiful Jim Key, I was convinced (and hooked) by this wonderful story.
This amazing horse was thought to have the IQ of a sixth grader and was a natural performer. The life story of his trainer, Dr. William Key, a self-taught veterinarian, former slave, Civil War veteran, entrepreneur, and horse trainer extraordinaire, was as gripping as the colt he taught to tell time. Beautiful Jim Key is a wonderful representation of history, as well, as Rivas explores the influences of the time and how these two “Keys” helped strengthen the view that animals were worthy of humane treatment.
Anyone who enjoyed Seabiscuit and Devil in the White City would most likely enjoy Jim Key, too.