Whats the Most Beautiful Thing You Know about Horses?

Overview

"I'm a stranger to horses and horses are strangers to me," admits the author/narrator at the beginning of this delightful tale of discovery. Members of the Dogrib nation from Canada, Van Camp's people use dogs instead of horses. Yet Van Camp has always been curious about horses. So he sets off on a playful search for "the most beautiful thing about horses," talking to family, friends, and even artist George Littlechild, who is a Plains Cree and knows something about horses. The answers Van Camp gets range from zany to profound: Horses can run
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Overview

"I'm a stranger to horses and horses are strangers to me," admits the author/narrator at the beginning of this delightful tale of discovery. Members of the Dogrib nation from Canada, Van Camp's people use dogs instead of horses. Yet Van Camp has always been curious about horses. So he sets off on a playful search for "the most beautiful thing about horses," talking to family, friends, and even artist George Littlechild, who is a Plains Cree and knows something about horses. The answers Van Camp gets range from zany to profound: Horses can run sideways. Horses have secrets. Horses can always find their way home. Littlechild's bold and fanciful paintings perfectly capture Van Camp's playful vision of the world.

On January's coldest day of the year in a small community in the Northwest Territories, a stranger to horses searches among family and friends for answers to an important question.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In this slim volume, Van Camp, a member of the Dogrib nation from Canada's Northwest Territories, asks the titular question of friends and family members to gain knowledge of horses. Addressing readers as "partners," the author explains that he is a stranger to horses, for in his often frosty homeland "All's we had up here were dogs." In a voice that moves awkwardly between that of cowboy and poet, the narrator imagines what he'd ask a horse: "Do horses think fireworks are strange flowers blooming in the sky?"; "When horses and dogs talk to each other, what do you think they say?" He then returns to the question posed in the book's title, and the answers he receives form a curious pastiche of impressions, ranging from his mother's comment that horses "must have secrets. When they run they seem to flow over the land" to a buddy's response that he doesn't like horses because "you feel great all day when you ride them but after that you feel bowlegged." Littlechild, who collaborated with Van Camp on A Man Called Raven, conveys a similarly capricious quality in his boldly hued paintings. An array of stylized images of equines and canines cavorting in living rooms and over rooftops as well as the more expected nature scenes incorporate stars and stripes, hearts and horseshoes. Despite the inviting, folksy tone, the book's strongly personal focus and frequently ambiguous meanderings make its potential audience difficult to determine. Ages 6-up. (Aug.)
Children's Literature - Tammy Cullers
When it's 40 degrees below zero outside and it's too cold for ravens to fly, for dogs to bark and trucks to start, what's a boy to do but wonder? The author of this captivating tale wonders about many things: what do horses say when they talk to each other? Is a dog part horse? Do horses love? But the thought that is most pressing on his mind on this frigid day in January is "What's the most beautiful thing you know about horses?" The boy is from the Dogrib nation, and his people use dogs instead of horses. He asks his brothers who look up from their activities (watching WWF wrestling and preening in front of a mirror) long enough to give him their ideas. He asks his mom, his dad and several friends the same question, and their answers all reveal something of the mysterious nature of horses. The author's thoughts bounce from idea to idea in authentic childlike fashion. Horse lovers will appreciate this thoughtful glimpse into the enigmatic nature of these glorious animals.
School Library Journal
K-Gr 3-"It is so cold the ravens refuse to fly." When you live in Canada's Northwest territories, what do you do when it's this cold? This young narrator decides to ask his family and friends, "What's the most beautiful thing you know about horses?" It's a surprise question since dogs are more important to the people of this small Arctic community-horses don't survive here. It is evident that satellite TV viewing influences the responses to the concept of beauty in this southern beast. The author engages in a remarkable free flow of musings, questions, and answers. His startling narrative style, lively pace, offbeat sense of humor, and refreshing stance give readers a lot to think about. The result is a direct and highly amusing comparison of the value of dogs and horses. In Littlechild's vibrant, surrealistic illustrations, horses vibrate and prance off the pages, dogs bay or lounge at the center of attention, and distorted figures eye readers. Brash, bold hues enliven the special aspects of each figure, while narrow bands of color along one side contrast with the central image. Particularly effective are the images pitted against the pitch dark, wintry skies. The use of photos of family members introduces an unexpected sense of reality to the paintings. A stunning piece of work that's sure to spark discussion.-Ronald Jobe, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada
Kirkus Reviews
Van Camp (A Man Called Raven, 1997, etc.) explains to readers how, on the day it was "so cold the snow is holding its breath," he impishly posed a single question to friends and family: "What's the most beautiful thing you know about horses?" Their answers form the basis for a meandering text that reveals the secrets of horses, and of people as well. Horses, the narrator finds, have freckles and cool hair and soft breath. When they run, "they seem to flow over the land . to compete with the wind." They can run sideways, and, like dogs, always know their way home. Respect for all living things is a connecting thread that runs throughout. Littlechild, who was also asked about horses, rolls out all the colors in the paintbox in a happy mix of startling, wide-awake stripes on horses, dogs, and faces. All of it radiates innocence, with shapes and colors that imitate the expressive, uninhibited strokes of children's art. The starting point for Van Camp's investigation is outwardly arbitrary, but the result is personal and fun. (Picture book. 6-8)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780892391851
  • Publisher: Lee & Low Books, Inc.
  • Publication date: 4/5/2003
  • Pages: 32
  • Age range: 6 - 8 Years
  • Product dimensions: 8.54 (w) x 10.77 (h) x 0.17 (d)

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