Midnight: A True Story of Loyalty in World War I, by Mark Greenwood, illustrated by Frané Lessac; Candlewick Press, $16.99, 32 pages, ages 8 and up.
On Halloween Night in 1905, a horse was born on a cattle ranch in New South Wales, Australia. Twelve years later to the day, that horse, appropriately named Midnight, would participate in the Charge at Beersheba, one of the last great cavalry charges in military history, which resulted in the victory that led to the eventual collapse of the Ottoman Empire. Here, award-winning author Mark Greenwood (The Legend of Moondyne Joe; The Greatest Liar on Earth) goes back to his Australian roots by sharing the story of this remarkable mare and her brave owner, Guy Haydon. Greenwood deftly traces the course of Midnight’s life as it changes course from cow horse to member of the Australian Light Horse Brigade, and does such a masterful job of it. This is a story of bravery and sacrifice, and it will bring tears to all who read it. (This is not suitable for bedtime; in addition to its somber tone, the tale will incite discussion and an immediate desire to learn more.) Illustrator Frané Lessac traveled to Be’er Sheva in Israel with Greenwood in order to see firsthand where Guy and Midnight participated in the charge. The trip bore fruit: pigment-saturated gouache illustrations capture the desert sands and blood-red skies of battle. Complete with detailed endnotes and photographs of the real Guy and Midnight, this is a perfect example of history leaping off the pages and into readers’ lives. (Walker Books, Midnight’s Austrailian publisher, put together a wonderful teacher’s guide, which would also be useful for Americans who may be less familiar with this particular part of WWI history.)