Monday, February 7, 2011

"Everything but the Horse"

I came by this book at the bookstore today, and it is simply charming. Firstly, the watercolor illustrations are so sweet without being schmaltzy. They're absolutely endearing. I grew up a horse-lover* (still am, probably will be forever, although I am not, as is the case of the young protagonist, still checking out library books about horses so I can practice drawing them) (notice I said still there....this was a part of my regular library-going routine as a child) so this book caught my eye partly because of the subject, but the illustrations were what caused me to crack the spine.

And then there's the story itself. It's all there -- the starry-eyed dreaming when watching other girls with their own horses. Not angry-jealousy just....wishful, wishful, wishful thinking (if wishes were horses, amirite?). The plotting of how to get one. The drawing of horses from library books. The yearning and hoping as the birthday arrives.

But there's a twist with this Girl And Her Horse storybook (I think the Girl And Her Horse -- GAHH -- motif is similar to the Boy And His Dog -- BAHD -- motif). That birthday surprise waiting at the end of the not a horse, and the girl isn't overcome with grief, and she doesn't go on with some elaborate money-making scheme to eventually get the horse she dreams of herself. She is given a bike, and she loves the bike, and rides off happily down the lane after christening it. She is happy and content, and we see her happily riding the bike down the lane with the horse farm.

I am so happy to come across a children's book about the desire of a horse that doesn't end with the protagonist somehow getting the Horse Of Her (and it's usually a Her) Dreams. In Everything But The Horse, she isn't gifted one. She doesn't buy one with some magically earned money (I never got this as a kid -- I knew from reading the Penny Power ads each week and circling all of the Free To Good Home horses that it wasn't the horse that was necessarily expensive, it was the upkeep). Her family doesn't move to a place with the land (actually, they're already on a farm...hence the barn). It isn't won in a contest, or rounded up on Pony Penning Day (oh hey, shoutout to my homeisland).

She gets a bike. And that's okay. It's not a sad ending, or a letdown. It's reality. And it's sweet and nicely done.

I can file this away in my continuing folder of Books I Will Buy For Future Children, Why Yes I Am Book Shopping Years Ahead

Summary: charming

*Okay, so a kid loving horses = not surprising 

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