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Hoofprints: Horse Poems Hardcover – March 2, 2004

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Editorial Reviews

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
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

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 Engberg
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Greenwillow; 1 edition (March 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060534060
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060534066
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,188,668 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jessie Haas was born in Westminster, Vermont, and lives next door to the small farm where she grew up. She has written over 35 books for children and adults, including Unbroken, Chase, Runaway Radish, the Bramble and Maggie books, and Saige and Saige Paints the Sky, the books accompanying American Girl's Doll of the Year 2013, Saige. A serially monogamous horse trainer--one horse at a time, till death do us part--and a passionate reader, cook and knitter, she shares home with fellow writer Michael J. Daley, two cats, a dog, and a willful and beautiful Morgan mare named Robin.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jeanne Walsh on July 1, 2004
Format: Library Binding
Adapted from a review that appeared in the Brattleboro Reformer:
"Saddle up," says the poet, "ride back with me," and in a few short lines we travel back "past buckboard wagons, buffalo hunts.../ and every sort of infidel invader," until we reach such an ancient time that horses aren't creatures to ride anymore. Then we walk,
45 million years or so,
our brown-spotted companions
pattering beside us,
on an ever-increasing number
of toes.
Toes? Yes. It's just one of the fascinating details in Hoofprints: Horse Poems, by Jessie Haas. Beginning around the time of the dinosaurs, it follows the evolution and history of horses and humanity up to the present day. Along the way, it offers readers an intensely personal view of history. In `Riding with the Horde,' for example, we don't just learn about Genghis Kahn, we become part of his army in a "long brown river of horses," caught up in a rhythm of riding and conquest that seems to have no end.
There are many sad moments in these poems, but joyful ones too. When we see the ancient riders on the Asian steppe, their gold-trimmed clothing "Catching sun, / Like a million cobwebs on a morning meadow," we understand the freedom and power people sought when they first began to ride. That longing echoes through a later poem, `Big Top,' about a North American boy and a circus horse whose separate notions of freedom intersect then move apart, "widening farther and farther / into the unknown."
The beautiful design of this book is worthy of its content, and it would be a wonderful gift for a lover of poetry, horses, or history. It's also perfect for use in the classroom, and it should inspire some interesting social studies projects.
Jeanne Walsh is Reference Librarian at Brooks Memorial Library in Brattleboro, Vermont.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Robert Beveridge HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on July 18, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Jessie Haas, Hoofprints: Horse Poems (Harper Collins, 2004)

I have a weakness for all things horse, and I love poetry, so this was a no-brainer when I saw it at the used bookstore. I have to say, I give a lot more slack to all things horse than I do to all things poetry, and I was kind of hoping-- since I take it as a given that all single-author poetry collections that revolve around a specific subject are going to be substandard poetry-- that my inner editor's laxity about horses would carry over to horse poetry. Alas, it was not to be. I love the history in here, and the research Jessie Haas did in preparing to write this book. I am somewhat less enthusiastic about the end result.

Poetry is that art of "show, don't tell" distilled, a medium where every word, every syllable, should be laden (and/or pregnant) with meaning, where description needs to be pared away like the white of an orange, and for much the same reason-- if you cook with it, it will give the whole dish a bitter, unappealing taste. Far too many poets don't understand this. (And mentioning it gives me a change to beat my favorite dead horse, W. D. Snodgrass' wonderful book De/Compositions, which shows this better than I ever could, and which should be required reading for all poets, aspiring, pro, or in between.) Haas is one of them:

"I want you to know that history is not what you have been told.
You have been asked to pledge allegiance to certain facts,
And that is a misuse of schooling, to teach you only phrases,
A lulling rhythm to rock your mind to sleep."
("Is That So?")

Those of you who have been reading my reviews for the past twenty years are well-used to my charge of "that's not poetry, that's political screed chopped up into little lines.
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