In which Annie (high school teacher, mother of two young girls and a younger boy) and her aunt Deborah (children's bookseller, mother of two young women in their 20s) discuss children's books and come up with annotated lists.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Horse books for kids

Dear Annie,

Early chapter books: we've got such a good list of them.  It's a wonderful step in a child's reading progression.

I thought I'd take up another of our reader questions, this one from guest blogger Faith.  She asked four questions, but I'm just going to start with one.  For her four girls, she wants:
 Horse books that are somewhere between Marguerite Henry and easy readers.
Billy and Blaze, getting to know each other.

I've amassed a small pile, starting with picture books, then non-fiction, and finally some early chapter books.  We've posted on this blog 632 times, so sometimes when I start writing, I just check to see if we've mentioned a particular book before.  We do have an entry about the first picture books I was going to recommend to Faith: the Billy and Blaze books, written between 1936 and 1970.  Turns out that it was a guest blog, written by none other than our own Faith.  So we have an expert here.  I'll try to find some lesser-known books.

Next there's
Fritz and the Beautiful Horses
by Jan Brett.  The people in a medieval city don't let Fritz within its walls  because they don't consider him beautiful enough.  Fritz seems little and Jan Brett-cute to me, buy hey, that's the story.  Fritz ends up saving a group of children and becoming the most popular horse in town.  Lots of nice horse pictures.

And on the more obscure end of the spectrum, Rosie's Magic Horse by the great Russell Hoban, illustrated by the equally great  Quentin Blake.  Rosie collects popsicle sticks.  When she adds a new one to her collection, it wants more from life:
"I could be something." [said the new stick]
"What?" said the old stick.
"Maybe a horse," said the new stick.
"In your dreams," said the old stick.
"We'd like to be a horse, too," said some of the other sticks.
They become a horse (named Stickerino), galloping into Rosie's dreams.  They all go off to find treasure to pay Rosie's parents' bills.  The mission is a success, and Rosie's dad wakes to find a chest of gold on the dining room table.  Lovely.

On to  chapter books, starting with
Horse Crazy
  by Alison Lester, illustrated by Roland Harvey (in the tradition of Quentin Blake).  It's a four book early-chapter series from Australia.  Two girls have adventures with different horses in each book: they're very nicely done, with much attention to horse personalities.  The books have a website with profiles of each of the horses.   The first book, The Silver Horse Switch, tells the story of a dissatisfied domestic horse trading places with a brumby -- the Australian term for a wild horse.

Another series, Horse Diaries, is up to at least 11 books now.  They're illustrated chapter books by a variety of authors, each a diary from the point of view of a horse in a different historical period.  The first is set in Iceland in 1000 A.D.   There's Vermont in the 1850s,  Austria in 1938, Nevada 1950, etc.

And then there are True Horse Stories, a Canadian series of slightly fictionalized biographies of real horses by Judy Andrekson.  Most of them are horses who have been through some form of adversity but because of a strong relationship with a human being they go on to become skilled show horses.  In
Little Squire
a very small horse and a kinda short guy both grow up separately in Ireland and come to America.  They find each other, establish a delightful man/horse friendship, and participate in jumping exhibitions around the country.  The horse has a very nice sense of humor.

I Wonder Why Horses Wear Shoes
Finishing off with two non-fiction books. There are number of this genre, at many reading levels.  They give a little history, some cautionary information about how much work goes into owning a horse, and lots of information about horses today. 
I Wonder Why Horses Wear Shoes is the reading level of a advanced early reader.  It answers 31 questions, including: Why do horses need grooming? How many kinds of horses are there? Whose horse had eight legs? (Eleanor and Isabel?) Which horses do cowhands ride?  Who sits in a sulky?  What is a chukka? I learned a few things reading it.
Eye Wonder Horses and Ponies

DK, a publisher that gets lots of mileage out of an excellent photo library, has a non-fiction series aimed at kids in the early grades called Eye Wonder.  The reading level is a little tougher than the I Wonder Why series, and the layout is excellent.  All their books open anywhere on a self-contained two-page spread  giving lots of information on whatever the topic is.  They've got one called Eye Wonder Horses and Ponies.

It does the usual topics, plus things like horse whispering, different styles of holding the reins, and feral horses -- it even devotes a paragraph to brumbies.

So there are a few horse books.  I hope some of these are new to you and the girls, Faith.  And when will they be getting horses of their own?



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