Randy, the Badly Drawn Horse

Holt. Aug. 2020. 40p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781250185907.
K-Gr 2–Randy is a goofy cartoon drawing of a horse, created by an enthusiastic young artist, who narrates off page via pink speech bubbles. “Mom! Look! I drew a beautiful horse!” Mom obligingly (if generously) affirms that Randy is indeed beautiful, setting Randy up with an inflated sense of his own importance: “I am a beautiful horse. Everyone loves me.” Throughout the rest of the story the child’s speech bubbles direct the action and describe Randy’s traits and activities, while Randy humorously interprets each action in the most glowing and heroic view possible. Ultimately, Randy sees himself in a pool of water and the literal self-reflection almost deflates his positive outlook, but with a little reassurance from the artist, he returns to his confident self. Randy’s flowery language and obtuse determination to stay positive will make readers laugh. McBeth’s illustrations maintain the idea of Randy being poorly drawn while skillfully animating him into a variety of expressions and positions. Some mixed-media elements, such as photos of almond butter, jelly, and a butter knife, heighten the idea that Randy is a drawing that is evolving as the child’s imagination dictates.
VERDICT Give this book a prime spot on the metafiction shelf, as it doesn’t overdo the concept. It will be popular with fans of expressive cartoon characters, and for read-aloud sessions with presenters who enjoy doing character voices.

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