CM . . .
. Volume XVII Number 19. . . .January 21, 2011
If I was adjudicating Piebald solely on the basis of its illustrations, I would have given the book three and a half stars and a "Highly Recommended" summary statement as Siemens's excellent watercolour illustrations of wild horses are full of life and energy. However, if I were to judge the book by Damircheli's text alone, it would likely get a failing grade. The publisher's publicity material refers to Piebald as an "allegorical tale," pretty heady stuff for a picture book's young audience. Piebald, the horse, comes across as a four-legged version of Patrick Henry, the American Revolutionary War figure forever linked with the line, "Give me Liberty or give me Death."
Piebald continues to lead those of his herd who have chosen their freedom over slavery, but the people do not cease in their attempts to try to capture the remaining wild horses, ultimately driving them towards a deep marsh that was "too wide to go around" and "too deep and muddy to wade through." Faced with choosing between his herd's capture or the horses' death by drowning, Piebald puts forth a third option, his suggestion found in the excerpt above, that being that some horses wade into the marsh while the others use their backs as a "living bridge" to cross the marsh to freedom. Of course, Piebald and those selfless horses that chose to follow him in volunteering to form the bridge all drown on the book's penultimate double page spread.. Having just been told that "Piebald was the last to fall," young concrete readers will likely have difficulty with the first line of text on the book's closing spread: "But Piebald and his brave friends still roam the plains."
Nonetheless, these brief moments are insufficient to rescue the text.
Recommended with reservations.
Dave Jenkinson, who is CM's editor, lives in Winnipeg, MB.
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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.