Of Wind & Sky: Illinois Author Marguerite Henry and the Wild Ponies of Chincoteague Island

A Road Scholar Program by Jamie Poorman (Photo by National Geographic Photographer Anthony Stewart)

Misty of Chincoteague Island

Feb 22, 2024


Olney Public Library
400 W Main St
Olney, IL 62450



Join Jamie Poorman to explore the life and legacy of Illinois Author and pony-lover Marguerite Henry. Henry was born in Milwaukee in 1902 and moved to Illinois after her marriage, writing many of her most famous works here. She published 59 books, mostly animal tales for children. Henry was an avid library user and conducted in-depth research before visiting the places that inspired her stories. Her works won many awards, including the Newbery Medal.

In 1946, Henry visited the island of Chincoteague off the coast of Virginia for the annual “Pony Penning” week when the wild ponies from nearby Assateague Island were rounded up, swam across the channel, and foals auctioned off. Marguerite fell in love with a tiny foal, named Misty, and purchased her. When Misty was old enough, she was shipped to Illinois to live with Marguerite on her farm near Wayne. Misty lived here in Illinois for over 10 years until returning to Chincoteague to have foals of her own. Misty was beloved by the neighborhood children, then the whole country. 

ALA Archives Marguerite Henry Photo with horse 0004738

Marguerite Henry and Misty the Pony (Courtesy The American Library Association Archives)

The pony was even invited to the American Library Association conference, and national contests were held to name her foals. In 1962, when Chincoteague Island was devastated by a terrible storm, Misty saved the town and the ponies by raising money during a tour of theaters along the Eastern Shore.

Henry once wrote “Some people, by the very tone of their voices, can make a story sound exciting. But then, when you follow up on the idea, it often turns out to be little or nothing. With Misty, the reality was more exciting than the promise.” You won’t want to miss this incredible story of an Illinois author and her impact on generations of readers and an island community nearly 1,000 miles away.

This event is Free and Open to the public. For more information, please contact Logan Braddock at director@olneypubliclibrary.org.

Learn more about Jamie Poorman, this program, and how to book it here.

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