Mary on Horseback

DSC_0173

Wells, Rosemary (1998). Mary on Horseback: Three Mountain Stories. Puffin Books: New York.

Winner of the Christopher Award, a Booklist Editor’s Choice Book, and a School Library Journal Best Book of the Year, Mary on Horseback is the fictionalized account of the work of Mary Breckinridge. Written for ages eight and up, it paints a memorable picture of this World War I nurse who served the isolated mountains of Appalachia via horseback, in the 1920s and 30s. Mary Breckinridge’s pioneer work was the catalyst for the Frontier Nursing Service.

Perhaps the most impressive thing about Mary Breckinridge is that her ministry to thousands actually resulted from her own grief and despair. After losing two husbands, and both of her children, she made the “decision to become a nurse so that other children might have a chance to live.” (p.52)

I’ve never been a Max and Ruby fan, but Rosemary Wells outdid herself with this one. I only wish that it were longer. This book could be used to introduce internet researching, as kids can see what they themselves can find out about this historical figure. More importantly, it can be used as an example of how we can keep our eyes on helping others, regardless of our own trials and tragedies.