Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A Horse To Remember

A Horse To Remember
Genevieve Torrey Eames, il. Paul Brown
1947, Julian Messner, Inc.

The little horse stopped a short distance from the boy and stood like a statue, head outstretched, ears forward, nostrils sniffing to make sure this was a friend. The sun turned his coat to gold, except for the narrow white strip down his face and the two white socks on his hind legs. His mane and tail were silvery white and his eyes were dark and full, set far apart.

Jarvis Dane is the only one in his family who doesn't love to ride. He envies his twin sisters, Mary and Martha, for their confident ease on horseback, but he really prefers to walk. This summer, though, his lack of interest has a price; his father, forseeing a bad hay crop, is planning to sell off some horses, including Jarvis's pet, the scruffy accidental colt named Joker. The ragged colt has grown up, largely overlooked, during the winter, and is now a beautifully formed 3-year-old with a flashy palomino coat. He still has the sense of humor that inspired his name.

"Funny about that colt. He's got his own ideas. He's smart - smart as they come - but he doesn't seem to take his work serious."

Jarvis plots to keep his horse, discovers a mystery in the woods involving a chicken thief, and fights with a snooty newcomer who disdains loyal collie Jack as not looking much like the champion show dogs his father raises. Most importantly, Jarvis learns to love riding.

Now they were climbing the hill at a walk, but Jarvis was too dizzy with happiness to know where they were. He was in a magic world of his own; a world he had just discovered, where he and his horse were like one creature - a creature with strength and speed he had never known, and all his to guide and control. He felt at that moment that there was nothing he couldn't do, no place he couldn't go. It was a world only riders could know. He felt, too, as if he could look right into Joker's mind and never before had he loved the colt so much.

Unusually realistic and strong portrayal of a kid - and a boy! - learning to want to ride, and then learning to ride. Where many horse books would have had the newly formed team of boy and young horse continue merrily on their way, Eames has her hero go through actual riding lessons on an older, quiet horse, and be unable to ride the young, green horse again until after those lessons. Granted, the lessons only last 3 weeks, but it's still kinda cool. And the lesson scene is very well done.

"No, no," Chet called out as Jarvis passed him, posting rhythmically in time to Gray Eagle's long, low trot. "Don't tuck you chin in like that. Look up - forward, between your horse's ears. That's better. And be careful about your feet, don't let them swing back and forth." Jarvis tried to keep his mind on his chin and his feet at the same time. It was like that old stunt of rubbing your stomach and patting your back. He had never thought there was so much to remember - head, shoulders, elbows, heels. The twins always looked just right on their horses and they never seemed to think about it. He was hot and sticky; his knees were tired too, but he wouldn't think of stopping until Chet said the lesson was over.

A very well-written book with sharply defined characters in the children, even between the twin girls who are very similar, and a nice growth in perspective by the hero. Strong horse scenes, and neatly wrapped plot threads. Unusually, a foal whose dicey birth fuels a major plot point disappears from the book quickly.

Jarvis has a collie, Jack, whose attitude toward his boy is summed up rather elegantly.

Old Jack, the collie, met the girls at the door. He greeted them with a wag of his tail as he passed them, but it was Jarvis he was looking for. He thrust his long, smooth muzzle into the boy's hand and walked beside him toward the house.

and later

The dog thumped his tail on the ground and gazed up at his master. It had not been a perfect day for him, shut in the house all afternoon, but the ending suited him all right. He loved picnic suppers on the lawn, with handouts from all the family; even Aunt Sue had passed him a bit of cold chicken when nobody was looking.

Joker - palomino 3-year-old
Lady-be-good - black blind broodmare
Annabel - retired polo pony
Gee-Whiz - retired polo pony
Pepsi - Shetland pony
Popsi - Shetland pony
Gay Lady - chestnut mare
Gray Eagle -
Sun Flash - Thoroughbred gelding
Ginger - 22-year-old horse
Dan - farm horse
Dolly - farm horse
Brownie - broodmare

Jack - 10-year-old rough collie

Other Books by Author
The Good Luck Colt
The Flying Roundup
Pat Rides The Trail

Books authored by Paul Brown (1893-1958)
Pony Farm
Pony School
Piper's Pony
Sparkie And Puff Ball
Daffy Taffy
Crazy Quilt, Circus Pony

Books illustrated by Paul Brown
Too many to list; he illustrated Eames's The Good Luck Colt

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