"A library book, I imagine, is a happy book." Cornelia Funke

"Everything puts me in mind of a story." Ben Franklin

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Little Humpbacked Horse

The Little Humpbacked Horse retold by Margaret Hodges. Illus. by Chris Conover, 1980.

Youngest brother Ivan is thought to be a fool, but when someone is trampling down his father’s wheat, he is the sibling who discovers the intruder. He finds a pretty white mare who gives him three colts in return for her freedom: two beauties and a funny little humpbacked colt with long ears. This odd horse becomes his trusted companion and helps him when he becomes the Tsar’s Master of the Stable, finds a Firebird’s feather, and gets himself into dilemma after dilemma. Some of the plot elements that follow are nearly the same as in Demi’s Firebird. Children will enjoy the lovable horse, Ivan’s lifelong friend, who claps his ears for joy and frisks about.

The book’s jacket says that Conover has reinterpreted traditional Russian motifs for The Little Humpbacked Horse. She uses mostly muted colors and her art has a sweet touch. Her picture of the golden maned mare and her two black foals, contrasts nicely with the fuzzy, wobbly looking humped horse.

The Little Humpbacked Horse: A Russian Taleadapted by Elizabeth Winthrop. Illus. by Alexander Koshkin, 1997.

This story begins the same way as Hodges’ with Ivan finding the thief and befriending the tiny camel-humped horse. This animal protects Ivan when the Tsar is told by jealous men from the stables that Ivan is an evil sorcerer, and Ivan is sent to find the Sow with Golden Bristles and Silver Tusks and her babies. Once successful, he must also capture the Magnificent Mare with Seven Manes and her seven stallions and finally, bring a beautiful Tsarevna from across three times nine lands to be the Tsar’s bride. Fortunately, the horse and the Tsarevna are resourceful.

Koshkin has illustrated the story with watercolor, tempera and gouache paintings. His pictures have a completely different feel than Conover’s. The little horse is sleek and somewhat wild eyed, with golden hooves. Some of Koshkin’s outstanding illustrations include Ivan and his horse rounding up the golden pigs, the little horse comforting Ivan by sitting in his lap and licking his face, and the Tsarevna arriving at Ivan’s tent in her gilded swan boat.

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