CM . . .
. Volume XIV Number 18. . . .May 2, 2008
For reasons which mostly elude me, interest in horses and horseback riding is considered to be a largely feminine enterprise. I suspect it is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Girls are believed to the ones most likely to read about horses or play with horse toys, and so girls are targeted in the marketing. Books about horses and toy horses are designed and packaged to appeal to an audience of young girls. This packaging makes the books less desirable for boys to select. A book with a girl and a horse on a pink cover is less likely to appeal to a boy. Many boys don't want to be seen reading a book that looks 'girly.' For the most part, the designers of Horseback Riding have tried to keep their book gender neutral. It is part of a series called "Outdoor Adventures." Perhaps because of the adventure focus of the series, the publishers see the work appealing to a broader audience, one which includes boys. There is a female rider on the front cover, but there's a good balance of males and females in the pictures within the book. There's no "cutesiness" to the design.
The design is both a strength and a flaw. The book is quite attractive. A table of contents and an index make it easier for young readers to find specific information. Bold words are explained in a simple glossary at the end of the book. The writer, Heather Kissock, has tried to avoid large chunks of text within this nonfiction work. Each two page spread features multiple colour photographs. There's also extensive use of charts. Charts compare horseback riding in the past and present, equipment for Western and English riding, and the characteristics of trail rides at different levels of expertise. Unfortunately, information is sometimes mixed willy-nilly, jumping from Western to English with no discernable pattern, complicating chart reading. A quiz about breeds is offered though the book offers almost no information on breeds.
Renée Englot, a former junior high school teacher, now works as a professional storyteller in school settings. She holds a Master of Arts degree in Children's Literature.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.