cover image If I Had a Horse

If I Had a Horse

Gianna Marino. Roaring Brook/Porter, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-62672-908-7

In a wistful and hopeful voice, a girl imagines the possibilities that could come from having a horse. The two could learn from each other (“I would have to be strong. Like him. He would have to be gentle. Like me”) and, after getting to know each other, become friends (“We would explore places we’ve never been”). The repetition of the phrase “If I had a horse” pulls readers forward, but Marino (Splotch) keeps the story’s energy subdued. Using watery washes of color, she depicts girl and horse in silhouettes that stretch across the pages, placing them against gestural backdrops of waving grass, towering trees, and distant pine-studded hills. As the book progresses, the illustrations shift from warm reds, yellows, and oranges to cool greens, blues, and violets, suggesting morning becoming midday, then night. Marino’s silhouettes should make it easy for readers to imagine themselves in the story, a contemplative tribute to children’s deeply felt desires for a pet and how one’s imagination can almost bring those fantasies to life. Ages 4–8. Agent: Deborah Warren, East-West Literary. (Jan.)