________________ CM . . . . Volume XII Number 18 . . . .May 12, 2006


The Magical Horses: A Fairy Tale for the Young and the Young at Heart.

Beate Epp.
Dundurn, SK: Blue Cat Publishing, 2005.
125 pp., pbk., $25.95.
ISBN 0-9738625-0-5.

Grades 3-6 / Ages 8-11.

Review by Linda Ludke.

*1/2 /4



The Land behind the Rainbow was once home to the Magical Horses. It was very distant. Those who wished to visit there had to travel far. Their journeys took them through forests, over mountains, and through valleys. They had to cross rivers and lakes. Yet sometimes the whole hard journey was for nothing, because at some point along the way - and this was never twice at the same place - the rainbow might simply disappear in front of their eyes. Yes, that's how it was. You had first to see the rainbow, then to follow it. Sometimes those seekers were lucky; sometimes they were not. That's why not everyone back then actually saw the horses, although everyone wished they could. But fortunately, it was not at all necessary to see the horses in order to experience and enjoy the great good the horses caused. You didn't have to see them to feel the magic; it spread all over the countries and far beyond. But if you were lucky enough to see them, you certainly felt blessed.


When Leo and Poldy Witherspoon overhear stories about magical horses with coats of rainbow colour, they are immediately intrigued. The twin mice seek more information from their village leader. Gordon Saunders reminisces about peaceful times long ago and the special magic that "brought many blessings and much love and happiness to all living things," but his knowledge isn't complete. Only Seraphina, "The Mother of All Mice," would know all the secrets, so Leo and Poldy set off to reach the "land behind the rainbow," armed with a map, a letter and special powder to throw in the eyes of predators.

     Trouble plagues the twins on their journey through the Dark Evergreens. Poldy loses her backpack filled with food, Leo slips in the Deep Valle of Rocks, and they are stalked by Winona the white owl. Benevolent forces, such as the Ghost of the Four Winds and a sandhill crane named Maximilian come to their aid.

     When the pair finally meet Seraphina, they are anxious to find out some answers. The Mother of All Mice confirms that the horses brought peace and happiness, but as for the particulars, "Many times we must simply accept what we are given and the good things that happen to us, and be thankful." Seraphina’s convoluted story continues with an odd description of the horses being born from coconuts growing on an island. When humans became greedy and started to covet the animals, the Witch in the Roses devised a curse to remove the horses' colours. The magic then could not spread, and the horses disappeared.

     Seraphina shares her hope for the future and instructs Leo and Poldy to write down everything they remember about their journey and then share the book with all mice and eventually the wider world, since "It is up to humans to bring love and happiness to others to unlock the curse."

internal art     Wading through the wordy text requires much patience. The pacing is problematic with events recapped and repeated several times. The text loses momentum with lengthy descriptions of breakfast meals and snacks before bedtime, as well as during the several community meeting scenes where the entire plot is retold and summarized. Proofreading errors such as "It's leavening is baking soda" also mar the text.

      Conversations tend to be incredulous streams of questions: "Wow, Leo, look at that! I didn't think that trees could be so tall! How huge they are and how dark it looks in there. How will we find out way through there? Where should we begin? Where does it start? Do you see anything?"

      Twenty four illustrations are included and range from line sketches with watercolour washes of the main characters, to realistic oil paintings of the horses. Three pictures are done on ricepaper and feature an optical illusion twist ("Turn the book to the right and look into the blue to see the ghost"). Small black and white reproductions of the colour plates are also placed at the end of chapters.

      While the oil paintings of the horses feature clean lines and striking, rich colours, unfortunately the text is verbose.

Not recommended.

Linda Ludke is a librarian in London, ON.

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

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