Black Beauty is an 1877 novel by English author Anna Sewell. It was composed in the last years of her life, during which she remained in her house as an invalid. The novel became an immediate best-seller, with Sewell dying just five months after its publication, but long enough to see her only novel become a success. With fifty million copies sold, Black Beauty is one of the best-selling books of all time. While forthrightly teaching animal welfare, it also teaches how to treat people with kindness, sympathy, and respect. Black Beauty became a forerunner to the pony book genre of children's literature. In 2003, the novel was listed at number 58 on the BBC's survey The Big Read.
This graphic novel adapts the classic children's story of a horse whose gentle nature triumphs over abuse and misfortune. Anna Sewell's original remains beloved to preteen girls in particular, not just for the adventures Black Beauty goes through, but also for Sewell's lyrical descriptions of a past era. Husband-and-wife team Brigman and Richardson do a wonderful job illustrating that period, with b&w drawings that pop off the page and give readers an excellent sense of place as well as time. Unfortunately hamstrung by having to shorten a story that spans many years, they have had to cut all of Sewell's descriptions and most of her transitions, leaving short, choppy chapters that represent information rather than tell a story. Sewell originally wrote the story to expose mistreatment of animals in her society, and the cuts leave the adaptation sounding a bit preachy and repetitive. The spirit of the author's brave horse still comes through, as Black Beauty describes his different masters and the other horses he meets in his life. This should be a hit with horse lovers still too young for the original.