Day 117 – Bonny’s Big Day

April 26, 2016 was ASPCA National Help a Horse Day 2016. We like horses – they are such beautiful creatures, it’s hard not to – and we would have some for pets ourselves if we had the space, so this evening’s selection seemed like a no-brainer. “Bonny’s Big Day” by James Herriot is a darling story about the bond of love, gratitude, and respect between a hard-working bachelor farmer and his retired plow horses. Like many of the selections from Mr. Herriot’s outstanding Treasury for Children, “Bonny’s Big Day” is full of humor and heart, and it makes us both smile and choke up a bit every time we read it.

bonnys big dayAfter working hard along side their owner, John Skipton, to help build Dale Close Farm, plow horses Bonny and Dolly have been spending the last twelve years of their lives enjoying their retirement. They spend their days cavorting about in their own meadow and splashing in a creek that runs through the farm, and every day John Skipton heaves a bale of hay on his shoulders and walks it down to them. It is on one of these walks that James Herriot joins Mr. Skipton; James has come to examine and treat Dolly’s hoof, into which a rusty old nail has lodged. While visiting with John, it suddenly occurs to James that this hard-working and frugal farmer has been engaged in the rather extravagant pastime of keeping ex-plow horses as…pets…for twelve years! “They’ve earned their retirement” John explains wistfully, and he is incredulous when James suggests that John enter Bonny in the pet show at the local fair. “I’ve never heard anything so silly,” he tells James.

Imagine everyone’s surprise when the normally disheveled farmer appears at the fair the following weekend sporting an old bowler hat, wearing matching (!) socks and leading Bonny – who is decked out in her full show regalia. Despite the initial misgivings of a perturbed show Secretary, Mr. Skipton is allowed to enter Bonny who is awarded first prize by the judge. As James says in his narration, all the other pets may have been cute or charming, “but Bonny was MAGNIFICENT” (emphasis, his). The book closes with James accompanying John back to Dale Close. When Bonny is set loose to run down to her meadow, she and Dolly stop to rub faces together. “Look at that” says John, “Bonny is telling Dolly all about her big day.”

I think my favorite thing about this book is the deep love and gratitude that John clearly feels for these two horses who were irreplaceable in the years when he was trying to build his farm up from nothing. John doesn’t waste time on his own appearance, and he looks to reinvest everything he earns in his farm, but for these two horses he is willing to set aside hard-earned farmland and to make the long walk every day to take them a fresh bale of hay. The horses clearly love him too, running up and nuzzling him…even being sure to push his hat down over his eyes. There are several places where this story chokes me up, such as when John pauses to think about all the hard years he and his horses worked through together, when John walks in with Bonny in her full regalia, when James makes that comment that Bonny looked “Magnificent”, or when the two horses share a quiet moment to share the story of Bonny’s big day.

Ruth Brown’s illustration add to the feel of the book – particularly the humor. The scene where John walks into the show with Bonny wouldn’t have nearly the same impact without her illustration…nor would the humor of John Skipton’s disheveled appearance have been quite as apparent. It’s another feature that helps make “Bonny’s Big Day” one of our favorite animal stories, and my favorite storybook about horses!


2 Responses to Day 117 – Bonny’s Big Day

  1. Susan says:

    You can’t miss with James Herriot. His stories are wonderful and so heart warming!

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