cover image Wild Horse Winter

Wild Horse Winter

Tetsuya Honda. Chronicle Books, $12.95 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-8118-0251-2

According to an endnote, this book tells of the real-life wild horses of the Japanese island of Hokkaido, who survive brutal winters by allowing the snow to bury them completely. In spare, imagistic prose (an English translation of the Japanese text), Honda relates the horses' annual climatic battle from a colt's point of view. The story starts out auspiciously, its short, declarative sentences recalling Hemingway's tales of the outdoors. Unfortunately, the text is ultimately rather flat, and gets bogged down in a blow-by-blow account: the scarce food, the first snow, the deepening drifts, the life-sustaining burial, the eventual trek to the sea to feast on kelp. And rather than culminating in a hoped-for dramatic climax, the narrative peters out lamely with the intimation of spring's arrival. Honda's full-spread watercolors, in wintry hues of ice blue and white, offer a sweeping, impressionistic panorama of the herd plowing through the drifts. But even though the palette is mitigated by a chromatic shift to reds in the last spread, the art, like the text, tends to become repetitive. Ages 2-8. (Dec.)