cover image Little Seven Colored Horse

Little Seven Colored Horse

Chronicle Books, Robert D. San Souci. Chronicle Books, $14.95 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-8118-0412-7

Although well-researched, this version of a popular Hispanic tale is hobbled by inept illustrations and a low-energy text. The plot line is common to many folktales: a magical creature (here, a seven-colored horse) rewards the kindness of a boy (Juanito) with magical assistance in winning the hand of a princess (in this case, the daughter of the alcalde, or mayor). Throw in the evil machinations of two nasty older brothers, and the story lumbers on through the hero's perilous quests and ends, at last, with the couple's triumphant wedding. While folktales rarely depend on originality for their success, there is little here to invigorate the predictable combination of staple elements. Dicks's (The House That Crack Built) watercolors feel devoid of emotion, and her depiction of the horse is especially disappointing, never living up to the description in the text (``Juanito counted seven colors in the little horse's coat, but they never seemed to his eyes the same seven colors''). The human characters are inconsistently drawn and sadly unappealing. Despite the title, this picture book is no horse of a different color. Ages 4-9. (Oct.)