Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Text and artwork of extraordinary beauty highlight this stirring tale of a girl who rescues her brother after he is captured by trolls. In the haunting, singsong language of an epic poem, Le Guin depicts the primeval northern country where the nameless girl dwells with her family. While her parents grieve over the loss of their son, the girl sets out to find him, taking for comfort her only toy, a painted wooden horse. For that one night, the figure is transformed into a flesh-and-blood mare of fiery red, which helps the girl find her imprisoned brother and bring him home. Le Guin's evocative prose takes the reader on that wild ride through the chill darkness--we hear the mare's hooves on a wooden bridge; we see the piles of refuse and the scampering rats in the interior of the troll's fortress. In Downing's paintings, too, the red mare (based on a Swedish woodcarving) leaps vividly to life, shaking her bridle of flowers as she crosses a silvery landscape bathed in bluish light. The trolls, with their white, moonlike faces, long talons and spikey hair are appropriately hideous. Even the book's design, lovely without being obtrusive, contributes to the old-world feeling of a classic story. Ages 6-9. (Aug.)
Children's Literature - Jan Lieberman
When her parents are unable to rescue their young son from the trolls, their daughter forgets caution, takes her red wooden horse for support, and begins the search for her brother. A grand adventure with pictures that highlight the danger and daring of the girl's mission. 1996 (orig.
School Library Journal - School Library Journal
Gr 1-5-- Le Guin's unnamed heroine is neither flamboyant nor elegant, but she is focused and wonderfully resolute. The tale tells of a little boy stolen by wicked trolls and taken to their High House. Since the heartbroken father is unable to cope and the mother must stay home with the baby, the sister sets out with a bit of bread, knitting needles, red yarn, and a scarf to find her brother. Of course, she is accompanied by her magical red wooden horse that her father had carved. Using traditional folkloric patterns, Le Guin fashions a child protagonist who is not overly frightened by trolls; she just deals with them. She is not even overly impressed with the mare who is her guide and champion. The horse does her thing and the girl goes on with her rescue mission. The language is rhythmic, with well-paced cadences and a tone that calls out to be read aloud. The illustrations do not invade the space of this well-crafted tale, but provide glimpses of what is being shared. Text pages have a decorative gray border that seems to embrace the words and adds a measure of caring to the telling. On the other pages, Downing uses the lovely reds of the horse and the scarf against more sober colors to complete the images. This story is a real gem that demonstrates the value of determination and that one's sense of satisfaction in a task completed is reward enough. Bravo to such a creative work. --Kay E. Vandergrift, School of Communication, Information and Library Studies, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ