cover image Every Cowgirl Needs a Horse

Every Cowgirl Needs a Horse

Rebecca Janni, , illus. by Lynne Avril. . Dutton, $16.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-525-42164-1

It's her birthday and Nellie Sue is hoping for a horse. Her parents have gotten enough hints: she wears cowgirl duds from head to toe, uses words like “moseyed,” drops her g's (as in “Yee-haw! We've got herdin' to do!”), and has elaborate plans for converting the family home into a barn and paddock. Instead, Nellie Sue gets a bicycle: “All eyes were on me, and I felt like I swallowed a hay bale.” Debut author Janni and Avril (Amelia Bedelia's First Day of School ) clearly appreciate their heroine's fantasies, but don't always succeed in getting inside her head. Avril's pink-hued watercolor cartoons have a birthday-card geniality, giving little sense of either an internal drama or a romantic vision of life on the range. The extent to which Nellie Sue takes the bike-as-horse fantasy makes for some overly precious lines (“I walked over to her with my palm out flat so she could get a good sniff,” she says, approaching the bike), but readers should identify with her longing, as well as her powerful sense of imagination. Ages 3–5. (Feb.)