In a radical departure from her Toot & Puddle series and recent Fanny books, Hobbie offers an affecting yet never sentimental memoir of her childhood move to a "ramshackle" farm out in the country. Quickly overcoming her initial fear of the countryside, Holly falls in contented love with her new life, especially raising animals--until she sees an older, wealthier, girl galloping by on her well-kept horse and becomes obsessed with having a horse of her own. "We had everything anybody needed to have a horse, and a horse was the one and only thing I wanted more than anything in the world." Hobbie perfectly balances realistic watercolor renderings of the rural landscape, as well as the vintage-flavored decor, clothing, and hairstyles of the early 1950s, with comical spot illustrations of herself and her mischievous brothers. One prophetic scene shows young Holly, "already the best artist in the family and in my class at school," drawing pictures of horses. The joyful surprise ending may puzzle younger readers, but adults will recognize the authenticity of a youthful change of heart. Ages 3–6. (Oct.)
"Both the vivid text and the appealing ink-and-watercolor illustrations are well calibrated to hold children's interest. This engaging picture book, one of the few offering a realistic story with a rural setting, will speak to horse-crazy kids everywhere."
From the Publisher
A Smithsonian 2010 Notable Book for Children
* "Beautifully depicts a time when life for a young farm girl was filled with rustic barns, fields, and delightful animals, while [Hobbie's] heartwarming text conveys a sense of innocence and dreams. Cozy as a grandmother's quilt, this book will have adults reminiscing and children dreaming."School Library Journal, starred review
* "Hobbie offers an affecting yet never sentimental memoir... [that] perfectly balances realistic watercolor renderings... with comical spot illustrations of herself and her mischievous brothers.... The joyful surprise ending may puzzle younger readers, but adults will recognize the authenticity of a youthful change of heart."Publishers Weekly, starred review"
Both the vivid text and the appealing ink-and-watercolor illustrations are well calibrated to hold children's interest. This engaging picture book, one of the few offering a realistic story with a rural setting, will speak to horse-crazy kids everywhere."Booklist"
The author's watercolor illustrations are nuanced and lovely, as always, adding to the narrative."Kirkus Reviews
Children's Literature - Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
Horse lovers will identify with the author completely as she reminiscences about her childhood. At first, when her family moves to an old farm, Holly is nervous, but she soon comes to love the countryside and the chance to raise animals. But most of all, having seen others riding by on horses, she is "swept away" by them. Since as far as she is concerned they already have "everything" needed for a horse, she wants one desperately. Discouraged by her family, she dreams on. On her birthday the present awaiting her in the barn is not quite what she expects, but it will do. The naturalistic full-page watercolor pen and ink illustrations and vignettes emphasize the sentimental aspects of childhood memories: a kitten making mischief, a traditional birthday cake, Holly checking out the essentials for a horse, etc. Details of both characters and settings enhance the emotional content of this tender memoir. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 3—An autobiographical story about Hobbie's childhood move to the country. The transition is frightening at first but the author discovers that she loves the fields and flowers, and the animals most of all. There are dogs, cats, ducks, geese, a cow, and chickens, from which Holly must gently coax eggs. But her favorite are her neighbor's horses, conspicuously absent from her farm. There is a pasture, stalls, hay, all the makings of a great place for them, but the family has far too many reasons for not having one. But when Holly's birthday comes around, her mother tells her there's something special waiting for her in the barn. Could it be? The author's fans won't be disappointed with this affectionately told tale about a young girl's greatest wish. The simple artwork, done in pen-and-ink and watercolor, beautifully depicts a time when life for a young farm girl was filled with rustic barns, fields, and delightful animals, while her heartwarming text conveys a sense of innocence and dreams. Cozy as a grandmother's quilt, this book will have adults reminiscing and children dreaming.—C. J. Connor, Campbell County Public Library, Cold Spring, KY
Toot and Puddle's creator offers a nostalgic sucker-punch.Hobbie recalls her early childhood, when her parents bought a ramshackle farm and filled it full of all sorts of animals--everything but the one little Holly longed for, a horse.She watched the neighbor girls ride, drew her "best pictures so far"of horses and even collected road apples and put them in the stall in the barn, to make it look lived-in.Then, on a magical birthday, her parents lead her to the barn where her wonderful surprise awaits--and it's a bicycle.Readers willstruggle with both the feeling of anticlimax and with Holly's inexplicable lightning-fast switch from disappointment to joy.Did she really just want a way to get around?The overly reminiscenttone may further distance readers.The author's watercolor illustrations arenuanced and lovely, as always,adding to the narrative: The farm's "wild, unpettable cats" haunts her dreams when they first move there; the family dog happily rolls in her imported manure. They cannot compensate for the disappointing story, though. (Picture book.4-8)