A Horse is a Horse…

As you’ve probably guessed, I love reading about animals, especially dogs and horses, but other animals are good to read about as well. I like fiction better than non-fiction, though I’ve read a number of good non-fiction animal books.

My husband loves to sing the first verse of the opening song for the old TV sitcom starring the “Mr. Ed,” hence the title of this post.

My favorites are:

Free and Easy, about young Stella O’Dare who pines for a horse of her own, but can’t afford one. She ends up helping at a neighboring farm and is allowed to train a filly. She begins to think of the mare as her own and gets jealous if other people take an interest in the horse. Things get more complicated when a young man takes an interest in the mare and then in Stella. I learned a lot about horse training, and about horse breeds. The filly is a purebred Narragansett Pacer. The breed no longer exists, but does show up in the bloodlines of Tennessee Walking Horses, Rocky Mountain gaited horses, and Saddlebreds. All these breeds have gaits other than just the usual walk, trot, canter, gallop. Not all Walking Horses trot and not all Walking Horses pace, but they all do the long, easy gait that is as fast as most horses’ trot, but with no bumping up and down.

Yeah, but what does that mean, to pace or to trot?

A horse’s walk, no matter how slow or fast, is a four-beat gait. Let’s say you’re looking at the horse from the left side, first the left hind foot moves forward, and as it lands, the right front foot moves forward, then the right hind and then left front.  A Walking Horse’s extended walk should be so smooth and straight, you could pass along rows of cornstalks and not touch the corn with your body. And you should be able to ride for hours. These horses were bred to carry the landowner as comfortably as possible while they checked on their plantations. Some horse shows used to have classes where the rider had to ride a certain distance holding a full glass of water without spilling a drop.

Next comes the trot, which is a two-beat gait. Again, watching from the left side, that hind foot and the alternate front foot leave the ground together, and, when they land, the other diagonal pair move. Once you learn to move with the push of the horse’s hind legs, it’s lots easier to stay with the horse instead of bouncing around. Now, this is where the gait called a pace comes in. Not all horses have it, but those that do can be quite comfortable. The difference is which legs move together. In the trot, it’s a diagonal pairing; in a pace, it’s a lateral pairing—left hind and left front. Your body must adjust to roll with the gait, instead rising to the gait. A slow trot is called a jog and, with the right horse, you can sit to it for miles. Our orange and white Pinto, had an outstanding jog trot, but he also had a glorious extended trot. I could feel his hind legs land under my seat and see his forelegs stretch past his muzzle.

Our wonderful Thoroughbred had a nice, steady trot, but his best gaits were his canter and his gallop—like riding on a fast-moving cloud. This is a three-beat gait—left hind, front legs mostly together and right hind. You should be able to sit to this gait.

The next gait is the gallop, which is what Thoroughbreds do when they’re racing. Similar to a canter, it is, of course, much faster and all four feet are off the ground in one stage of the stride. It’s so exciting it can take your breath away.

My husband and I had Tennessee Walking Horses on our farm. Two of them were good jumpers and very willing to go where ever we wanted them to go.  I loved that we had a breed which carried the bloodlines of the horse in my favorite horse story.

Other of my favorite books:

King of the Wind: the story of the Godolphin Arabian, and other books about horses, all of them illustrated by Wesley Dennis, taught me a great deal about horses. Her books about the Chincoteague ponies still resonate with horse lovers. The first of that series is Misty of Chincoteague.

Smoky, the Cowhorse written and illustrated by Will James, who was a cowboy and taught himself to draw.

The Black Stallion by Walter Farley, who was another favorite of mine for horse books. And though this information says the book was copyrighted in 1969, I think it was first published much earlier than that.


My Friend Flicka
and the rest of the series by Mary O’Hara will always have a place inmy heart. Flicka is about a young boy’s struggle to please his domineering father and the solace he finds in gaining the trust of a filly.Any of the C W Anderson books will do, but see if you can find his Favorite Horse Stories. I believe his last story was of a pony named Blaze. I loved the pen and ink

drawings scattered throughout the pages. He was also quite well known for his

drawings of horses, perhaps even better known for them than his books.

Enid Bagnold’s National Velvet is another much loved and much filmed story about a

young English girl, who trains and rides a black and white pinto to win the grand prix

of steeple chase races in England at the time when girls weren’t supposed to do things

that. Elizabeth Taylor and Mickey Rooney played in the original film version.

Of course, just about everyone knows about Black Beauty, whose story was put to paper by Anna Sewell and was intended to inform the public about cruelty to horses, in particular harness horses. The book itself plays a part in my middle-reader novel, which I hope to have out by the end of this year. My book is titled Emily’s Ride to Courage.

Obviously, there are many more stories involving horses, but this is enough for now. Thanks for reading. Sarah Maury Swan, author of Terror’s Identity.

Adventures of all Kinds

I still am gathering books to talk about books about animals, so I’m going to give you reviews about books I just read. Two of them do have animals as main characters, but they’re not part of the collection in my heart.

 

The first one is about Henry who sees the museum he visits with his classmates in an entirely different way. The illustrations are funny and remind me of Peter Arnold’s drawings in the New Yorker, ages ago when I was young.

 

A Funny Thing Happened at the Museum

Davide Cali

Illustrated by Benjamin Chaud

Henry’s trip to the museum isn’t quite the same as what his classmates experience. Instead, he and his stalwart dog encounter a charging triceratops. But Henry and his dog take refuge with a Neanderthal family.  As thanks, our intrepid friend shows them how to design creatures using balloons, until he is chased away by a herd of buffalo. Saved from that, Henry and dog trigger a volcano to explode and, in running away to keep from being plastered with lava, the two heroes run smack into an exhibit of dinosaur bones, set up to represent the various types of animals. Their reconstruction is not quite as precise as it might have been. Even in the hall of sculptures, Henry has a different experience than the other students. But, in the end, he has made the museum an even more intriguing place for future visitors. The drawings are delightful and the story will have children wishing to go to a museum. But do be careful not to get caught in Henry’s kind of adventures. Teachers will happily gather discussion points from this book.

BIBLIO: 2017, Chronicle Books LLC, Ages 7 to 10, $12.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Chapter Book

ISBN: 978-1-4521-5593-7

 

This charming story talks about making friends and understanding where one belongs in the scheme of things.

 

Amanda Panda Quits Kindergarten

Candice Ransom

Illustrated by Christine Grove

Amanda wants to be a school bus driver when she grows up, but, first, she wants to go to kindergarten. And she wants to do all things her brother, Lewis, did. She plans to write her name in big letters on the chalk board, so everyone will know who she is. She’ll build the tallest block tower and then she’ll run faster than everyone else, provided they’re only running downhill. The first day of school, Amanda gets to the bus stop only to discover a girl her age dressed in brilliantly-bright pink. Amanda tries to ignore her, but the pink girl follows her onto the bus and sits down next to her. Bitsy is her name, she announces, but Amanda doesn’t feel like being polite, so she doesn’t answer. Bitsy writes her name on the board, taking up most of the room, leaving Amanda only a very small area for her name. No matter what Amanda tries to be best at, Bitsy gets in her way. After recess, Amanda sneaks into the line for Lewis’ grade and sits next to him in his class. Amanda’s feet don’t reach the floor and she can’t read the words on the board. Just when she’s feeling very low, Bitsy shows up at the classroom door, looking quite lost and sad. Turns out she had gone looking for Amanda and got lost. Amanda realizes her mistake in quitting kindergarten, so she takes Bitsy’s hand and back they go to their classroom. Amanda discovers it doesn’t hurt to be kind. This is a sweet story with adorable illustrations combining panda traits with human traits. Teachers have many discussion points to use in class.

BIBLIO: 2017, Doubleday Books for Young Readers/Random House Children’s Books/Penguin Random House LLC, Ages 4 to 7, $17.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Picture Book

ISBN: 978-0-399-55455-1

ISBN: 978-0-399-55456-8

ISBN: 978-0-399-55457-5

 

 

This story is a winner, with a charming message and wonderful drawings.

 

No More Noisy Nights

Holly L. Niner

Illustrated by Guy Wolek

Poor Jackson Mole works hard all day, moving boxes of stuff and furniture into his new house, which makes him very ready for bed and a good night’s rest. Promptly at nine p.m., he settles himself in, expecting to sleep soundly, but the “oooEEEeee” wail coming from the attic keeps him awake all night. Jackson has a hard time staying awake the next day and does such silly things as putting ketchup on his toast. At bedtime, Jackson goes up to the attic and asks the ghost to be quiet.  The ghost, says he’ll try to be quieter, but what’s he supposed to do? Jackson says he’ll think about. The next evening he sets a box on the attic floor. But does he get to sleep that night? Noo. The basement Boogey Monster, boogety woogety wooos all night long. Jackson asks the monster to make less noise at night, but the monster doesn’t know how. Jackson leaves a box at the foot of the basement stairs. Now he is sure he’ll have good night’s sleep.  Nope. The Piano Pixie starts plinking out her music. Is he ever going to have a peaceful night’s sleep? Of course, the next morning, Jackson asks the pixie to not make all that noise at night. She says she’ll try, but what’s she supposed to do. He puts out sheet music for the pixie and goes to sleep with the soft sounds of a puzzle being assembled above him, a toy train chugging along below him, and a pixie lullaby coming from the piano. What can be better than a not-so-noisy house and new friends?  This book is adorable, with cute illustrations and a good message of cooperation.

BIBLIO: 2017, Flashlight Press, Ages 5 to 8, $17.95.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Picture Book

ISBN: 978-1-936261-93-2

 

 

Animals in Books

I have to do more research before I present my next post. But here’s something for you to think about until next time. Most of us have at least one pet, or have had one in our lifetimes, and there always come a time when the pet needs to pass from this realm to the next. I have had lots of pets, some shared with other family members and some that were just mine.

I also have read many books about humans and their animals. So, I thought I’d write about some of those books. But, first I’ll have to go back and re-read at least some of them.

What books do you remember from your life of reading? Did you ever read the books about collies that were written by Alfred(?) Payson Terhune? Or Free and Easy, by Fairfax Downey? Or William Faulkner’s story The Bear? Along with Where the Red Fern Grows, or any of the other well-known books about humans and animals, these books have always stuck with me. Please tell me about your favorite animal stories. And next week, I’ll go into more detail about some of the books I’ve mentioned.

Of the more modern books I’ve read, there is Sheri Shepard Levy’s Seven Days to Goodbye and, of course, the Shiloh series.

Talk with you next week, if not sooner. Sarah

Good Books to Read

There are a lot of good books being written nowadays, though there are plenty of clunkers. I thought I’d include a good one from each reading range: Picture Book; Middle-Reader; and young adult. Hope you find these interesting.

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Dance Fever

Julie Bowe

The latest in the “Victoria Torres: Unfortunately Average” series has our heroine, called Vicka, working on the school fund raiser committee as a sixth-grade representative.  Her older sister, Sofia, is chairperson of the committee and is trying to keep peace in the committee.  Unfortunately, fellow sixth grader, Annelise, is also on the committee and has what she thinks is the perfect dance theme—a formal ball, with girls in fancy gowns and boys wearing suits and ties.  Guess how many boys are thrilled with this idea. Vicka must get Annelise to change her mind.  Not an easy task, but Vicka succeeds, with one proviso. Annelise insists on having a Sadie Hawkins dance. Everybody’s happy. The boys because they can wear jeans and boots. The girls because they get to ask the boys to the dance. Vicka is not all that happy, however, because she’s afraid to ask her crush, Drew. She’s sure he won’t be interested because he’s popular and older. In the end, she and Drew go singly, but end up dancing together. The fund raiser is a huge success, especially when the school principal gives a calf three kisses on the nose. This is a cute story about a girl who feels she doesn’t have anything special to offer the world, but is indeed a good friend and a natural-born fence-mender. There are lots of issues presented for classroom discussion.

BIBLIO: 2017, Stone Arch Books/Capstone Books, Ages 11 to 14, $25.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Middle-Reader

ISBN: 9781496538192

ISBN: 9781496538215

ISBN: 9781496538277

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We all have times when we wish we were in a better place. It just takes someone to show us we’re in the perfect place right now.

Princessland

Emily Jenkins

Illustrated by Yoko Tanaka

Young Romy is sad. She’d rather be in Princessland, where everything is perfect. Her cat, Lady Cat, takes her on a walk through their town to show Romy she already lives in such a land. Romy says in Princessland a person can get whatever she wants to eat whenever she wants it. Lady Cat stops at the bakery, where the baker gives Romy a day-old muffin and Lady Cat a dish of milk. Next the cat takes Romy up a tree, so high they can see the whole town. Romy tells Lady Cat about the tall towers in the Princessland castles where the Princesses sleep on rose petals. The cat takes her to open-air market, where lady cat steals a fish from the fish monger and Romy dances to a guitar-player’s music dreaming of being at a fancy ball. Next the two stretch out on a patch of lush green grass, while Lady Cat chases a butterfly and Romy tells of the princesses all having their own horses or whatever creature they want. After a nap, Lady Cat announces she wants her dinner and Romy complains that she hadn’t been to Princessland as the cat had promised. Lady Cat says she had taken Romy there. Romy thinks about it and realized the cat was right.  Sweet story with a wry sense of humor, which might give the reader an understanding of appreciating what she has.

BIBLIO: 2017, Farrar Straus Giroux Books/Macmillan Publishing Group, Ages 5 to 8, $16.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Picture Book

ISBN: 9780374361150

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What do you do when the person you count on to keep things on an even keel is floundering?

Stealing Our Way Home

Cecilia Galante

Pippa and Jack Kendall are dealing with the death of their mother as best they can. Pippa doesn’t talk anymore and Jack thinks it’s his fault. Then they discover their dad has lost his car dealership and is broke.  He’s afraid of losing their house and he can’t find a job. The house is of great importance for many reasons, but especially because it belonged to his wife through inheritance. Pippa is now looked upon as weird and is afraid of being taunted by her classmates. Then their father takes Jack with him when he goes to rob a bank and Jack is horrified, but also glad that the family now can pay the mortgage and get the utilities functioning, plus buy Pippa and Jack new school clothes. Pippa has to write a paper about someone she thinks is a hero. Originally, she picks her mother, because she was so brave during her losing battle with cancer. Jack is concerned about his father and Pippa and how he can keep them safe.  While the two are trying to sort out what’s going on, Pippa learns what her father is doing to support the family. The next time he goes to rob a bank, Pippa goes with him and Jack.  She knows Jack doesn’t approve of the robbery. Just as her dad heads into the bank, she regains her voice and yells at him to not go. Dad stops, goes back to the car and heads home. He turns himself in to the police and has to spend a year in jail. Pippa writes her paper on Jack and reads it aloud to the whole school. This book is nicely written, telling a powerful story.

BIBLIO: 2017, Scholastic Press/Scholastic Inc., Ages 8 to 12, $16.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Middle Reader

ISBN:978-1-338-04296-2

ISBN:978-1-338-04298-6

 

Please let me know what you’re reading and what you think of it. Thanks, Sarah