The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses
A horse is a horse, of course, of course, except if it used to be an Indian girl.
A strange book. It's a kind of a fairy tale. I'm not sure if it's actually based on a legend by one of the Native American tribes, or just created by Paul Goble. It's rather unclear.
There's an unnamed tribe of Native Americans who it first says were always moving from place to place, then describes as living in a village. Either by "village" he means "temporary settlement" or it's inconsistent. There's a girl who loves horses. Not necessarily wild horses, she just loves all horses. She loves the horses that her tribe and family have, and she is able to take care of them and such. Then one day she falls asleep among the horses and a thunderstorm arrives. All the horses freak out and she ends up grabbing ahold of a horse's mane and all the horses run away and leave the village and go to a wild horse herd. There's a wild stallion who can talk apparently, and all the horses from the village join these wild horses and her village searches for them for a year and never find them (so much for the stereotype of Indians being good trackers-- you would think that you would be able to find a stampede of horses even if they ran in a rainstorm. You would think that the mud would leave pretty clear tracks of where the horses ran to).
So a year later two hunters ride out there (who knows where they got their horses from if all the ones in the village left; maybe they bought them from outside the village) and they see the girl and she waves at them and then the hunters leave. Then all the people come and try to catch the stallion and try to catch her. It's unclear why she doesn't try to go back to their people because it does state that she was glad to see her parents, and she had waved to the hunters, so she wasn't trying to avoid being discovered. But the stallion is basically defending her from the people, who knows why. Then her horse stumbles and she falls and the humans catch her and she goes home to her people, where she's miserable.
Her parents are like, "Okay, what's going on? What do you want?" And she tells them that she wants to go back to the wild horses. Her parents love her, so they say, "Okay. And, here, have a pretty dress and one of our horses." Then all the wild horses come and they give them fine things to wear and blankets and saddles (why wild horses would need saddles, I don't know). They paint designs on their bodies and tie eagle feathers and ribbons in their manes and tails and then the girl gives a colt to her parents, and then goes back and lives with the horses. Every year, she comes back and brings them a colt, until one year she doesn't come back but there's a mare with the stallion so the people go, "Yep, she turned into a horse." And then there's a couple of poems from the Navajo and the Sioux at the very end about horses.
There's no real point to this book. If it actually is a legend, it doesn't say that it's a legend. It doesn't seem to claim that it is. So why did this guy write this book? It just has this feel of mysticism without a point to it, and usually there's a point to that kind of thing. As someone who's neither Native American nor knowledgeable about the many tribes and cultures of Native Americans, I can't really say how accurate the images are, or whether he's attempting to depict a specific tribe, or whether any tribes lived in deserts resembling the images who had horses, tipis, and hunted buffalo. But as a story, it doesn't really go anywhere. There's no point to it, and none of the characters learn anything from it. There's no major conflict. Nothing really gets resolved. It's just like, some stuff happens, and there's magic horses.
Just on the on the merits of the story alone, it's just not that good a book. As far as the storyline goes, it's not terrible, but it's not great. It falls kind of in the low end of "meh." I'd kind of be annoyed if people were reading this to my kids, but I wouldn't stop them. I don't think that children actually get the idea that they should run away and live with horses.
What is the message of this book? "Respect animals"? "People needed to be free to follow their passion"? It's not like anybody tries to stop her from doing that. At least not for very long. I just don't know.