Ponies, ponies, ponies
John Wesley Dennis (1903 -
Unlike his brother, who eventually made his living drawing dogs, Wesley Dennis’ interest was horses. He had a horse of his own as a child -
When he returned to America, he earned money by sketching race horses and selling the pictures to their owners. Whilst on honeymoon with his second wife, he met the Juvenile Editor for the Viking Press, May Massey, who suggested that he write and illustrate a book. Flip was the result. When Marguerite Henry was searching for an illustrator for her first book, Justin Morgan Had a Horse, her first choices, Will James and C W Anderson, were not available. She found Flip in a local library, and so began her collaboration with its artist. Although Wesley Dennis went on to write a few titles of his own for younger readers, he is probably best known for his work with Marguerite Henry, for whom he illustrated 15 titles. The combination of the two was hugely successful and many of their titles are still in print now.
Dennis was a prolific illustrator, and there are over 150 books illustrated by him. I have listed as many of the horse titles as I have been able to trace.
Finding the books: all the books Wesley Dennis wrote and illustrated are easy to find. First editions in very good condition can be expensive. The books Dennis illustrated vary in price considerably; very good first editions of the Dorothy Lyons and Marguerite Henry titles can be very expensive. Most of the Henry titles were reprinted several times, and so it is not hard to find very good reprints for a reasonable price.
Links and sources
The Wesley Dennis website: an excellent site, with unused illustrations, a bibliography and much more.
The Wesley Dennis papers: University of Minnesota
Many thanks to Susan Bourgeau, Lisa Catz, Alison MacCallum, Kristin, and everyone else who has helped with photographs.
Palomino and Other Horse Stories
World Publishing Company, Cleveland, 1950, 226 pp
With an introduction and pictures by Wesley Dennis. I don’t yet have a full listing of the contents,
but some of the stories included are Chapo the Faker by Will James, Sit Your Saddle Solid by
Mari Sandoz. Other contributors include Ernest Thompson Seton and Ross Santee.
Viking Press, New York, 1946, 32 pp
Holiday the pony sees a dog win a blue ribbon at a show, and he decides he
would like one too. After hurdling a fence in front of his owner, he starts a new
career as a jumper.
Flip and the Cows
The Viking Press, New York, 1942, 63 pp, illus the author
Scholastic Book Services, 1970
Flip is scared of cows, but has an adventure with them, nevertheless.
Flip and the Morning
The Viking Press, New York, 1951, 63 pp, illus the author
Reprinted by Puffin Books, New York, 1977
Flip the colt keeps disturbing Willie the goat’s sleep, but he thinks up a clever way of stopping Flip.
Portfolio of Horse Paintings
Wesley Dennis, with a commentary by Marguerite Henry
Rand McNally, Chicago, 1964, 16 colour plates
Tumble, the Story of a Mustang
Hastings House, New York, 1966, 48 pp, illus the author
A short and charming story about Tumble, a wild mustang, who meets man and
is captured, and then escapes.
The Viking Press, New York, 1941, 63 pp, illus the author
In the Dandelion Library with I’m Tired of Lions, Viking Press, New York, 1966
Scholastic Paperbacks, 1973
Reprinted by Puffin, New York, 1979
Flip the colt can’t keep up with his mother, but dreams of how he would be able to if only
he had wings.
Horse Books written and illustrated by Wesley Dennis
About Wesley Dennis
The Illustrated Marguerite Henry
Rand McNally & Company, NY, 1980, 128 pp
Illus Wesley Dennis, Robert Lougheed, Lynd Ward and Rich Rudish
Contains information on the four major Henry illustrators, including Wesley Dennis.
Flip and the Cows
Fllip and the Morning