Friday, January 9, 2009

Friday Book Review: a true story?

Remember Ferdinand the Bull? Who liked to smell the flowers? Originally published in 1936, the story was one of my favorites growing up, perhaps because of the way my folks would read it aloud to me, drawing out the "sme-ellllll the flowers" bits (with great relish).

Well, today's book reminded me a lot of Ferdinand when I read it for the first time. Both critters certainly have a fine appreciation for the peaceful life! Perhaps Blackie isn't quite so timeless as the flower-loving bull, but he's still endearing. At least I thought so!

Blackie, the horse who stood still by Christopher Cerf & Paige Peterson (illus. by Paige Peterson)
Laid out in verse, this is the "mostly true" story of a horse who experienced as many and varied careers as many people, (and apparently, with more grace and good humor). Like the aforementioned Ferdinand, who only wanted to smell the flowers, Blackie just wants to stand still and enjoy life as it happens around him.

But in spite of his wish to bask in the sun and shade under his juniper tree, Blackie has a varied career as a rodeo horse (who stops still so that his cowboy can rope many a steer), a park service horse (a stock-still, stationary mount for visiting tourists to have their pictures taken on), and, ultimately in his retirement the 28-year pasture ornament teaches those who pass the value of the scenery he surveys.

The rhyme scheme is relaxing, and the oil painting illustrations are absolutely charming. An endnote lets readers know a bit about the horse behind the story. Blackie actually was a real horse from Kansas who appeared in rodeos, served as a mounted patrol horse for the US Cavalry in Yosemite National Park, and was retired to a Tiburon, California pasture where he lived out his days. When he died in 1966, the community erected a life-size bronze statue in his memory.

Whether as a read-alone for horse-crazy youngsters, a lulling tale for a child's bed or nap time, or a gift for the adult horse lover in your life, this is a standout.
The cover picture, showing just the top portion of Blackie against a blue sky background - eyes peering off the page, and ears alertly listening - is really captivating. I dare you to pick it up in person and not want to take it home :)

No comments: