Jessie Haas charts equine evolution in Hoofprints: Horse Poems. The more than 100 poems begin in prehistory, contemplating the lives of the biological ancestors of the horse, then move through the roles and influence of horses during Roman times, in battle, in 19th-century urban life and into the present day. In the poem "Two Legs," Haas offers a horse's-eye-view indictment of early man: "Sleek like an antelope,/ Shaggy like a bear./ Smell like a meat-eater./ Slow. Slow./ He can't/ Do much/ Harm." (Mar.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Sure to appeal to the horse lover, this collection of poems will also be appreciated for its historical content. In 104 verses Jessie Haas takes the reader through time, from 5000 B.C. to the present day; from the ancestors of equus to her beloved Morgan. Each poem concludes with the time and place depicted. The introduction nicely sets up the historical context of the collection; reading the afterword and glossary first may help some readers interpret the poems more readily. Topics addressed range from the role of horses in building the Great Wall of China, to a Dutch farmer's trick for protecting his horse from the Nazis, to the origin of the word "stirrup." Other poems, such as "The Mid-Air Moment," capture a feeling inspired by riding: "Oh, the mid-air moment is the one/when all is well,/and everything may yet/turn out all right." No matter what the subject, Haas' poems paint vivid pictures and contain musical rhythms. A horse lover will gallop through this book, while a poetry lover may take the landscape of these poems at a gentle canter. 2004, Greenwillow Books/HarperCollins, Ages 12 to 18.
This book of free verse poems takes on the challenging task of telling the story of the history of horse and man and succeeds beautifully. Beginning in prehistoric times, the author takes the reader on an epic time-travel excursion that follows the evolution of both horse and man up to the present day. It is fascinating to see how horses have shared some of the most significant moments in human history, including the invasion of Genghis Kahn and the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. The structure of each short poem is spare but lyrical, with a wonderful rhythm reminiscent of the rocking motion of a rider on horseback. The mood of each poem ranges from the comedic to the tragic. For example, "It's Alimentary: PowerPoint Presentation by Miohippus, Late Oligocene Epoch" is an amusing, whimsical look at how horses developed an efficient digestive system. But then readers encounter the terse and sorrowful poem, "The Knife Cuts Both Ways," which tells the story of how King David cut the hamstrings of his enemy's horses, leaving them to die in agony. This book would have definite appeal to middle school readers who love all things horse-related, and it would be a nice change of pace for readers who have devoured all the usual fiction for horse lovers. The poems would also appeal to reluctant readers who might be intimidated by longer novels. This book is recommended for both public and school libraries. VOYA Codes: 5Q 3P M J (Hard to imagine it being any better written; Will appeal with pushing; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 2004, HarperCollins, 224p.; Biblio. Glossary., and PLB Ages 11 to 15.
Gr 9 Up-Haas's considerable knowledge, love of, and respect for horses is clearly evident in this collection of 104 poems. Her introduction credits the animal with affecting the lives of Eurasians, North Africans, and Americans ("We have all been changed by the horse, for better and worse"). A nine-page afterword reiterates its history and usefulness. Arranged somewhat chronologically, the poems present, often in abstract terms, a quite thorough view of the horse and its ancestors dating back 65 million years; the character of each evolutionary animal; and the uses of the horse by humans over the centuries. Haas's poetic talent is apparent in her deft use of rhymes and rhythms, descriptive narrative verse, occasional touches of humor, and subtle inferences. Her poems display cleverness and, often, spare, vividly descriptive, well-turned phrases. Understanding them requires some knowledge of world history and familiarity with mythology. A few, like "Dappled Things," are quite adult. ("What's less free than a mare on the urine line/perpetually peeing into a tube,/giving her hormones for women's menopause,/her foals for supper in Paris?") A bibliography is appended, as is a glossary that includes equine terminology, historical empires, places, and people. The collection's major caveat may be that it requires a reader whose fascination with horses equals that of the author's.-Susan Scheps, Shaker Heights Public Library, OH Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Haas takes the idea that poetry can tell stories a step further than usual here: into history, more specifically, the history of the horse. She does this in 104 poems, from the first horse-like multi-toed creatures 65 million years ago ("Couldn't run fast- / just fast enough") to modern-day dressage ("This rider, / in black jacket, white breeches, / is accountable for each step taken"), from Holland to Iraq to Mesopotamia, from the horse as meat to transport, to companion, and back to meat again. The language is precise, careful, and true; the history multifaceted as history should be. "The fantastic happens daily, even now/and daily we record it. / In time our descendents will prove/that it was possible." Ambitious, accomplished, adventuresome. (Poetry. 10+)