Pinto! tells of a little horse with big dreams, is accessible by advanced elementary to early middle school grades, and follows the first-person reflections of a 1912 horse who, along with humans George Beck and three others, undertook a 20,000-mile journey over the span of three years with the goal of visiting every state capital in the union.
The narrator is the only horse to make it through all three years, and recounts terrible, wonderful explorations in a lively, observational manner that will excite young leisure readers—even those who resist history stories.
M.J. Evans recreated this true history from journals written by George Beck and Raymond Rayne which are in the possession of the Bainbridge Island Historical Museum, but added fictional embellishments to fill in blanks and enhance the drama.
As the young Pinto becomes one of the rare Overland Westerners to experience strange new worlds, he becomes ever more determined to see the journey to its end.
Evans has long been a dedicated horse lover, which is why this history is so steeped in the sights, smells, sounds, and perceptions of Pinto. Not only physical challenges of snowstorms and snakes, but the oddities of humans are related from Pinto's unique perspective.
The humans he accompanies are also steeped in Western culture and perceptions of the great frontier: "It feels so good to be back in the West,” George said, throwing away my reins and patting me on the neck with both hands.
“Yep,” added Jay, “these are our kind of people, cattle people, out of doors people. They know what it’s like to be on their own in harsh conditions.”
If the goal is to capture an impossible journey's daily experiences and couch it in the drama and excitement of a horse-lover's perspective, then Pinto! more than fits the bill. It deserves a spot on the reading lists of not only young, horse-crazy readers, but adults who like horse tales ala Black Beauty and others which are nicely steeped in their times and hard to put down.
A horse tells the story of the Overland Westerners’ ride around the United States in this YA historical novel.
Pinto, the equine narrator of this book, has handsome black-and-white coloring and a noble heritage as a Morab (half
Arabian, half Morgan). He calls himself “a little horse with big dreams,” and that makes him perfect for accompanying his
new owner, George Beck, on his fame-and-fortune scheme. The idea is that Beck and three other men—calling
themselves the Overland Westerners—will leave Bainbridge Island in Washington in 1912 for a 20,000-mile trip, the
longest horseback ride in history. They plan to visit every state capitol in the continental U.S., taking photographs of
themselves with each governor. Along the way, they’ll sell calendars, postcards, and magazine subscriptions to help fund
the journey, and wind up in California for the 1915 World’s Fair, the Panama-Pacific Exposition. Like many other
ambitious stunts, this one runs into severe difficulties: bad weather, arduous trails, and a constant money shortage,
especially as the Westerners get farther east. Their promotional items and magazines don’t sell, and many governors
refuse photo opportunities. The Westerners finish the odyssey, but there’s no gold at the end of their rainbow, and it’s
hard on the animals; it can be upsetting to see them suffer. Happily, though, Pinto ends his days on Bainbridge, “a good
life for a horse.” Historical information and photographs are included. In her book, Evans (The Stone of Wisdom, 2018,
etc.) deftly brings out the pluck of the Westerners and the variety and verve of America in the early 20th century. At one
stop, for example, the Westerners have no success because a stunt stilt-walker has already been through “and pinched
every penny out of the people.” Pinto’s lively, appealingly egotistical voice is appropriate to this young, ambitious America:
“I am quite aware of how spectacular I am.” But while they are brave, the Westerners’ vainglorious enterprise is hard to
applaud, because it mainly resulted in poverty for the men and exhaustion, injury, or worse for the horses.
A forgotten piece of Americana brought to vivid life.