From School Library Journal
Grade 9 Up--Haas's considerable knowledge, love of, and respect for horses is clearly evident in this collection of 104 poems. Her introduction credits the animal with affecting the lives of Eurasians, North Africans, and Americans ("We have all been changed by the horse, for better and worse"). A nine-page afterword reiterates its history and usefulness. Arranged somewhat chronologically, the poems present, often in abstract terms, a quite thorough view of the horse and its ancestors dating back 65 million years; the character of each evolutionary animal; and the uses of the horse by humans over the centuries. Haas's poetic talent is apparent in her deft use of rhymes and rhythms, descriptive narrative verse, occasional touches of humor, and subtle inferences. Her poems display cleverness and, often, spare, vividly descriptive, well-turned phrases. Understanding them requires some knowledge of world history and familiarity with mythology. A few, like "Dappled Things," are quite adult. ("What's less free than a mare on the urine line/perpetually peeing into a tube,/giving her hormones for women's menopause,/her foals for supper in Paris?") A bibliography is appended, as is a glossary that includes equine terminology, historical empires, places, and people. The collection's major caveat may be that it requires a reader whose fascination with horses equals that of the author's.--Susan Scheps, Shaker Heights Public Library, OH
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Gr. 8-12. Haas' latest celebration of horses is a departure from her novels and picture books. In sophisticated poetry, she explores horse history, imagining scenes of prehistoric ancestors, the first pairing of horse and rider, and onward through time and across continents. The diverse, intelligent selections, some told from a horse's viewpoint, range from simple, sensory impressions to less accessible, abstract poems that wear their research heavily. A dateline following each poem, a glossary, and an author's note offer more context. Whether or not readers understand the meaning in every line, they will find the stories and facts fascinating, particularly the intricate links between human and equine history: "We never had pants, before horses. / Never needed them." Best, though, are beautiful scenes that show a rider's gratitude for a horse ("You cancel these distances / You make the way level / You abolish loneliness") and the timeless thrill of galloping and leaping obstacles, "the mid-air moment" when "everything may yet / turn out all right." A unique, memorable collection. Gillian EngbergCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved