Purchasing a horse had been a life-long dream for Newfoundland author Marion Brake. Lady, purchased in the late 1990’s, became the inspiration for her first two books: A Horse Named Lady and Lady’s Big Surprise. Both picture books are somewhat unconventional, yet delightful.
A Horse Named Lady is about a young boy named Simon who wants a horse. His grouchy neighbor owns a horse that he overworks. One day after a visit, Simon senses that Lady is sad and asks his parents about buying her. How she ends up with him forms the rest of the tale. Lady’s Big Surprise was written based on the popularity of the first and takes place one year later. Lady is overweight and distressed. The family calls the doctor, who gives them some big news: Lady is pregnant! How the new foal settles into the farm forms the rest of the tale. Both tales are simple, as is the artwork, and convey a sweet innocence.
I said these two books are unconventional. How so? If you look at any of the pages, you’ll immediately see a lot of print. Except for the best readers, children in primary grades will need to have their parents read to them. Third graders and older should be able to handle the amount of text, but by this age they will have started to outgrow picture books. The other way Brake’s books are unconventional are in her use of dialog. For example, the first page contains dialog by multiple characters within a single paragraph. Standard grammatical practice would dictate that each time there’s a new speaker, there’s also a new paragraph.
At the back of both of her books, Brake includes photos of the real-life horses who inspired her tales. As I read her Lady stories, I could feel how much love and happiness went into them. They reminded me of years ago, when I jotted down some stories about my own pets. Eventually I compiled my guinea pigs stories into two spiral-bound books which I illustrated and then shared with students at the school where I taught. The students loved the books, especially when I followed-up my readings by bringing my guinea pigs to school for a visit. Some of the teachers thought they were relaxing and fun, and enjoyed them enough to buy copies for themselves. Similarly, when visiting with Brake, she told me about letters she’d received from local students who loved her books and wanted more tales about Lady.
Brake has only limited copies left of her Lady books and doesn’t plan to issue reprints. However, she’s written other books which are equally sweet. Check back tomorrow for another review!