If I Had a Horse

illus. by Gianna Marino. 40p. Roaring Brook/Neal Porter Bks. Jan. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781626729087.
PreS-Gr 2—Many children dream of riding and owning a horse; perhaps this is related to the wish for wings, since the speed and relative height achieved when galloping comes about as close as one can get to flying. This book is made for living that fantasy vicariously. Employing silhouettes against ethereal, misty landscapes, Marino's gouache spreads take readers through a range of sentiments as horse and girl develop their relationship. It starts tentatively with an outstretched hand and an apple on a monochromatic (red) spread, the two figures on opposite sides of the gutter. As they get acquainted, the sky is rendered in yellow, while the background and foreground images are layered yellow/blue/green. Hair and mane are windblown throughout, a choice that adds energy to the compositions, as does the movement of the animal. After a fall, the child realizes: "I would have to be strong. Like him./He would have to be gentle. Like me." Together they explore and race, while the rider contemplates the thrill of the wind and the bond with such a powerful animal. In the final spread, she is standing on his back, arms outstretched as they disappear off the page. A restrained, compact text allows the high-spirited pictures to pull listeners into the experience, feeling their own emotions as they ride along.
VERDICT An invigorating opportunity for individuals or groups to participate in a glorious moment—inside out.

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