________________ CM . . . . Volume IX Number 16. . . . April 11, 2003

cover Old Bird.

Irene Morck. Illustrated by Muriel Wood.
Toronto, ON: Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2003.
32 pp., cloth, $19.95.
ISBN 1-55041-695-2.

Subject Heading:
Horses-Juvenile fiction.

Kindergarten-grade 3 / Ages 5-8.

Review by Reesa Cohen.

***1/2 /4

Reviewed from prepublication copy.


"Sorry, Old Bird," Papa said. "No room for horses. Five cows, five stalls." He shut the door and turned the wooden latch. A moment later the door opened, letting in the howling wind and cold rain. Bird stepped into the barn.

"She must have just rubbed the latch with her nose," said Papa. He chased the old horse outside and closed the door firmly. In no time Bird was back inside. Papa chased her out. Bird opened the door again. Papa grumbled and shook his head. But Bird didn't leave the barn until Papa and the boys were finished milking.

Arnfeld and Archie's endlessly long days traveling to and from school, with chores still waiting for them on the homestead, are recounted in the first few pages of this amusing story. Papa solves the boys' problem by purchasing an old mare, called Bird, who will serve as their method of transportation.

internal art

     But this clever "old Bird" who is shut out of the barn and farm duties manages to open the barn door again... and again... and again, even with newly installed latches, much to amusement of the two boys. The battle of wills between a frustrated farmer and a determined old horse is on!

     Four latches later, Papa finally succeeds in keeping Bird from the barn. The response of this clever, unhappy but determined horse is to toss the boys off his back on the way to and from school. This turn of events prompts Papa to sell Bird. But before he has a chance to do that, old Bird proves herself to be the strong workhorse the family really needs. Old Bird finally takes her rightful place on the family farm, in spite of her age.

     This simply told tale is accompanied by softly coloured oils, full of textured brushstrokes. Muriel Woods effective paintings capture old Bird's expressive personality and character, family and farm life, prairie landscapes, and dramatic points in the story. The predominantly blue-hued illustrations of each picture left this reader questioning the overuse of this one colour, but the art work is expertly done, reflecting a different time and place and featuring wonderful facial expressions.

     Old Bird would make a great read-aloud in the study of pioneer life, and children will be delighted to know that it is based on a true story.

Highly Recommended.

Reesa Cohen is an Instructor of Children's Literature and Information Literacy at the Faculty of Education, University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, MB.


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Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364