When the Horses Ride By

By Eloise Greenfield
Illustrations by Jan Gilchrist

Eloise Greenfield

Eloise Greenfield is a celebrated poet an the author of more than forty books of fiction, poetry, and biography for children, including the Coretta Scott King Award winner Africa Dream, and The Coretta Scott King Award Honor books Mary McLeod Bethune and Childtimes: A Three Generation Memoir co-written with her mother. Greenfield is the recipient of the Hope S. Dean Award from the Foundation for Children’s Literature and the NCTE Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children. She has received the Hurston/Wright Foundation’s North Star Award for Lifetime Achievement, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Moonstone Celebration of Black Writing, and an Honorary Doctorate of Education from Wheelock College in Boston. Greenfield has also been inducted into the International Hall of Fame for Writers of African Descent. She lives in Washington, D. C. Here Greenfield talks about the inspiration behind the poems for her book When the Horses Ride By.

What do you enjoy most about writing?
When the Horses Ride By
What I love most about writing are those hours that seem almost magical. I sit in a quiet place and people are born into my imagination. Their whole lives, the things they do and think, the places they live become real to me, and words come of their own accord. Those magical hours alternate with periods of conscious thought and hard work in order for me to pull a story together.

What events/stories in particular inspired the poems in When the Horses Ride By?

The book was inspired by my observations of children, and how they get through difficult times. It was also inspired, as many of my books are, by conversations that illustrator, Jan Spivey Gilchrist, and I had about children.

What kind of research (if any) did you conduct for this book?

This book required a great deal of research. There were many questions to be answered like: When did each war or series of wars take place? What were the children doing at those times? What was life like, in general, for the people during those periods? What were the customs? What are some of the specific incidents that occurred? Although some of the poems are fictitious, they had to be based on fact.

What do you relate most to in this book?

I relate to the human experience, whenever and wherever it occurs. Over the many years of my life, I have witnessed the strength of children and I am inspired by it. I wanted to capture that strength in this book.

What do you hope readers will take away from this book?

My constant hope is that my work will inspire in children a love for literature. In addition, I hope that reading these poems will make readers aware of their own inner strength and help them to cope with any problem that may arise. I hope they will hold on to their dreams, as beautifully expressed by Langston Hughes in the book’s epigraph.

About This Title

Guided Reading:




Interest Level:

Grades 2 - 6

Reading Level:

Grades 3 - 4


Middle Grade, War, United States History, Identity/Self Esteem/Confidence, Poetry, Overcoming Obstacles, Native American Interest, Multiethnic interest, Latino/Hispanic/Mexican Interest, Immigration, Home, History, Families, Dreams & Aspirations, Discrimination, Coping with Death, Childhood Experiences and Memories, African/African American Interest, Asian/Asian American Interest, Empathy/Compassion, People In Motion, Persistence/Grit, Courage, Cultural Diversity, Geography, Self Control/Self Regulation, Similarities and Differences, Tolerance/Acceptance


African American English Collection Middle School, Poetry Middle School, Diverse Background English Collection Middle School, English Fiction Grades 3-6, Fluent Dual Language , Fluent English, Historical Fiction Grades 3-6, Poetry Grades 3-6, Human Rights Collection, High-Low Books for Preteens (Grades 4-6), Lee & Low Poetry Collection, African American English Collection Grades 3-6, Diverse Backgrounds Collection English 6PK, English Guided Reading Level Q, Trauma-Informed Collection, Refugee Children's Book Collection

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