A while back I reread one of my childhood classics, Misty of Chincoteague. This story, about two children – Paul and Maureen – who raise a pony on an island off the Delmarva Peninsula is probably Henry’s best-known story. Its rise in popularity led to it being made into a movie, and so Henry returned to Chincoteague and Pony Penning Day. She says in her afterword,
I had no though of writing another Chincoteague story. I really did not want to write another. Misty, I thought, was complete in itself. Let the boys and girls dream their own wonderful sequels.
And then all my resolves burst in midair. Early on the morning after Pony Penning, a lone colt with a crooked star on his forehead was found at Tom’s Cove … except for the sea mews and the striker birds, the colt was quite alone, one little wild thing, helpless against the wild sea.
And there, in that wild moment at Tom’s Cove, the story of Sea Star was born of itself.
Like the story of Misty, the title character of Sea Star doesn’t appear until better than halfway through the book. The beginning of the story picks up a year or two after Misty ended. Paul and Maureen love their pony, and she is like a member of the family. And then, two men appear and offer to buy Misty. They have read the book about Misty and want to make a movie. And while they plan to shoot portions of the movie on Chincoteague – namely, the Pony Penning parts – they want to take Misty back to New York with them, not just for the recording of the movie, but –
Because … we’d want to keep her a while after the screen play is made. We’d want to take her to schools and libraries where boys and girls could meet her. We’d want to fix a stall for her in the theaters where her picture was showing so they could see the real Misty. It might be a long time before she could come back … Sometimes when I hear the children in New York talk about Misty, it seems she no longer belongs to a boy and a girl on an island, but to boys and girls everywhere.
While Paul and Maureen initially give a resounding no to the offer, circumstances change when they realize that the money from selling Misty would be enough to send their uncle to college. It’s a truly beautiful scene, as the children realize that there are things bigger than themselves. Their uncle’s yearning to go forward with his education so he can become a minister and serve others, the way that Misty has become an important part of the lives of many children whom Paul and Maureen have never met, and through it all the lesson that one reaps what one sows: the knowledge that selfishness is only beneficial in the short run.
This book has a more serious tone than Misty. Henry does a really wonderful job showing us the many ways that Paul and Maureen mature in just those few weeks (and isn’t that how life happens? In leaps and bounds?). She never portrays their decision as easy or flippant: what they are doing is a huge, serious sacrifice. Any reward they may eventually receive from their choice is far in the future.
There are multiple life-lessons to be learned. Throughout, Wesley Dennis’s amazing illustrations bring the story to life. I may or may not have gotten teary-eyed when Paul and Maureen saw Misty off.
While Misty was a happy children’s story, I liked Sea Star better. There is a bit more drama and depth, and everything pulls together to make a cohesive and engaging story. While not perfect, it is a really wonderful sequel and definitely recommended.
#18 for #20BooksofSummer!!!