________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 7 . . . . November 21, 2008

cover La Primera: The Story of Wild Mustangs.

Ian Tyson. Paintings by Adeline Halvorson.
Toronto, Tundra Books, 2009.
32 pp., hardcover (Includes CD), $22.99.
ISBN 978-0-88776-863-7.

Subject Headings:
Mustang-Juvenile poetry.
Mustang-Juvenile literature.
Children's poetry, Canadian (English).

Grades 2 and up / Ages 7 and up.

Review by Tanya Boudreau.

*** /4

Reviewed from prepublication copy.


It was a long hard voyage to the Americas in 1493
I was afraid that I would die of thirst
The little mare beside me died and was put into the sea
But I survived I swam to shore, I am La Primera


La Primera: The Story of Wild Mustangs is a picture book based on the song La Primera, written by Canadian singer and songwriter Ian Tyson. La Primera was one of the several Spanish horses that were sent over to the Americas in 1493. Although she survived the long boat ride, many horses died along the way. La Primera tells the story of how these spirited horses came to live in Mexico and how they were able to live among the conquistadors, the Comanche, and the cowboys.

internal art

     Beautifully illustrated with Adeline Halvorson's oil paintings, Ian Tyson's book ends with a five page section entitled Wild Mustangs. It's here that young readers will find information not touched on in the lyrics of the song. They'll learn about the "stray animals" and how the word mustang came to be. This section tells how mustang herds shrank in numbers and why some mustangs were killed. A hero during this time was a woman named Velma Johnston. She fought hard to protect the horses, but help is still needed. Children will learn about the controversy surrounding the wild mustangs, and where the remaining wild horses can be found today.

     Adeline Halvorson's horses are drawn with attention to detail and against a variety of backgrounds. The horses look strong as they run across the plains. At times, they look proud and sometimes they look terrified. Their hides glisten as they kick up dust running across an open plain. After the horses arrive in the Americas, their muscles appear tense as they lash out against the blues of the ocean and sky, but when traveling with the Comanche on their backs, the mustangs run through long grasses with their manes and tails flowing behind them in the wind.

     Ian Tyson has recorded many folk and country songs and hosted a TV show. A recipient of the Order of Canada, Ian lives and works in Alberta. Born in Saskatchewan, Adeline Halvorson is a self-taught artist. Presently living in British Columbia, Adeline spends much of her time researching and painting.

Editor's Note: While this book will be accompanied by a CD, it was not present with the advance review copy and consequently is not mentioned in the review.


Tanya Boudreau is a librarian at the Cold Lake Public Library in Cold Lake, AB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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