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The Lost Horse


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About the Author

ED YOUNG is the renowned author-illustrator of more than fifty books for children, including the Caldecott Medal-winning Lon Po Po: A Red-Riding Hood Story from China and the Caldecott Honor book Seven Blind Mice. He lives in New York.


Both text and art are elegantly spare in Young's (Lon Po Po) newest retelling of a Chinese folktale, which may be among the Caldecott Medalist's finest works. Sai, introduced as a wise man, loses his horse; when people arrive to comfort him, he tells them, "You know, it may not be such a bad thing." It proves, in fact, to be fortunate: the horse returns with a mare. Sai rejects his friends' congratulations ("Perhaps it is not such a good thing"), and he is right again (the mare throws Sai's son). This pattern continues, and by the end, Sai's son, like his father, "trust[s] in the ever changing fortunes of life." It's a relatively metaphysical lesson for a picture book, but Young's restrained and even suspenseful telling brings the message home warmly and appealingly. The illustrationsÄsubtle collages with pastels and watercolorÄ eschew Young's often characteristic abstractions in favor of a delicate, slightly flattened style, reminiscent of traditional Chinese painting. Tranquil scenes of Sai's exchanges with his neighbors alternate with dramatic spreads (e.g., the dappled horse rearing, a lightning bolt in the sky behind it). As a bonus, three laminated, jointed paper figures of Sai, his son and the horse are tucked into a plastic sleeve on the back jacket. An author's note exhorts readers to use these figures to "extend the story beyond the limits of these pages." No doubt they will. Ages 5-8. (Apr.)

K-Gr 3‘A wonderful elaboration on an ancient Chinese proverb and story dating from the Han Dynasty. The proverb, which can be translated, "A loss may turn out to be a gain," as well as the original story (though it appears here without the moral), are printed in Chinese characters at the beginning of the book. When a man's horse runs away, he refuses to see the event as a tragedy, just as he refuses to celebrate its return with a mare. Similarly, when his son is thrown from the mare's back and breaks his leg, the father does not consider this mishap as necessarily bad. His trust in the fortunes of life is rewarded when the son's injury prevents him from going to war, and thus saves him from possible death. Pastel and watercolor collages appear on two-page spreads and depict characters wearing attire authentic to their time and place. The tents and the predominantly brown scenery provide realistic glimpses into the stark landscape of the northern frontier. Striking close-up views show the son tumbling from his horse and families mourning their dead after battle. This story is an excellent springboard for a discussion of the changing nature of life. An added bonus is the three articulated puppets that will encourage storytellers to extend the story.‘Marianne Saccardi, Norwalk Community-Technical College, CT

[star]"May be among the Caldecott Medalist's finest works."
--Publishers Weekly (starred review)

[star]"A wonderful elaboration on an ancient Chinese proverb."
--School Library Journal (starred review) "Wonderfully theatrical . . . Will lead children . . . to discover the unexpected
turnabouts in the sad and happy events of their own lives."--Booklist

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