cover image If I Had a Horse

If I Had a Horse

Chronicle Books, Jonathan London. Chronicle Books, $13.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-8118-1112-5

A ""horse of sun"" becomes a horse of smoke and later one of music in this simply worded poem about a girl traveling the earth and sky on a sturdy brown stallion. The setting of the fantasy is south of the border: the heroine rides ""a horse of wind past the Publicos and burros,"" plucks mangos off trees and rides in the carnival. Scudder (Francis the Earthquake Dog) paints palm trees and vivid tropical skies on nearly every page, using intense watercolors of deep grape purples, flamingo pinks and turquoise blues. Her double-page full-bleed spreads of lush landscapes are populated with dozens of bright creatures and plants: orange crabs, red parrots, fuchsia flowers, yellow starfish. Unfortunately, London (The Eyes of Gray Wolf) does not weave a narrative to support his poetic phrases, nor is there evidence of a relationship between the unnamed girl and her horse. Hence, it is no surprise to see, in a final wordless spread, that the horse she dreams of is the same as the rocking horse that sits in her bedroom. As a sweet dreamy vision of the tropics, the book has an escapist charm, but some horse lovers may find the vision a wooden one. Ages 2-6. (Aug.)