cover image On the Day the Horse Got Out

On the Day the Horse Got Out

Audrey Helen Weber. Little, Brown, $18.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-316-45984-6

“On the day the horse got out,// the bells all rang,/ the birds flew south.” The sun rises from billowing clouds, in this picture book, to find a white horse outside a fence, cropping lilies. The bells of the verse belong to other barnyard creatures: a cow with a bell around its neck dashes headlong across the page, alongside a cat with a steady gaze that sits astride a galloping, belled sheep. The sharp-edged wings of birds, meanwhile, echo petals and wind-tossed streamers also shown. The images and text that follow mix the everyday (a missing dog) and the fanciful (a sleeping dragon, a tiny room underground) while building a chaotic tension that never lets go. The horse’s final leap into the unknown befits the surreal logic of nonsense verse and leaves behind a delicious sense of unsettling mystery. Creating a nursery rhyme that sounds suitably timeless is a challenge, but newcomer Weber’s verse passes the test, and so do her haunting spreads, which carry whiffs of folk art and medieval books of hours. Ages 4–8. [em]Agent: Hannah Mann, Writers House. (June) [/em]