Wild Horse Annie: Friend Of The Mustangs (Tracey Fern)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Wild Horse Annie: Friend Of The Mustangs, written by Tracey Fern and illustrated by Steven Salerno.

From childhood, Velma Bronn Johnston’s first love was horses. Her father was a horseman in Nevada who captured wild mustangs and tamed them for sale; he taught Velma to ride and encouraged her passion. When she contracted polio, spending months in a full-body cast and left with a bent spine, facial disfigurement, and full-body chronic pain, horses were her relief and reason to keep going. After marrying and founding a riding school for children, Velma takes notice of the rapidly dwindling numbers and inhumane treatment of the wild mustangs, and devotes her time to having legislation passed to protect them. Beginning with letter-writing campaigns and town hall speeches – and fighting against verbal abuse and death threats – Velma earns the nickname “Wild Horse Annie”, meant to be disparaging until she adopts it with pride. Utilizing a nationwide “pencil brigade” of children to write letters and raise funds in the mustangs’ defense, Johnston’s efforts lead to federal legislation protecting them from harm.

I had never heard of Wild Horse Annie, and I’m so glad that I have now. Her story speaks to every child who marvels at horses, her love for them inspiring her through difficult times. Annie’s sunny yet steely personality shines through each page, and the reader gets a real sense of what’s at stake for both the horses and Annie if they fail (there is a passage that unflinchingly notes that she was threatened with being “hanged from a tree” among other things; subtle streaks of blood are shown on horses that have been abused). I also appreciated how the story focuses on Annie’s thousands of partners: the children who took up the fight for the mustangs and were the tipping point for many politicians on the matter. The illustrations are also lovely, capturing the unique color palette of the American West and Annie’s fierce, unwavering energy. The length makes this better for slightly older bookworms, but we enjoyed it immensely. Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

Pride: The Story Of Harvey Milk And The Rainbow Flag (Rob Sanders)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Pride: The Story Of Harvey Milk And The Rainbow Flag, written by Rob Sanders and illustrated by Steven Salerno, a beautiful and moving ode to the banner of the LGBTQ community.

Harvey Milk had a dream. He wanted all people to be treated equally under the law; to love who they loved, be free to be themselves, and not be discriminated against. In 1977, Harvey became one of the first openly gay elected officials. The next year, he and his friend Gilbert Baker came up with a symbol to unite their community and the people who supported it, and to show pride. They created the first rainbow Pride Flag, and introduced it at a march for equal rights. Then later that year, the unthinkable: Harvey was assassinated because of one man’s hatred and fear. Yet despite his life being cut short, the seed of hope, courage, and pride that Harvey and Gilbert had planted with their flag had already taken root, and was beginning to grow.

Beautiful and moving. Like many luminaries that have tragic – and often tragically short – lives, it’s hard to tell Harvey Milk’s story in a child-friendly way, but this book does so with grace and a sense of hope. As Milk’s life story ends, the story of the flag becomes the focus, elegantly showing how it grew across the nation, then the world, ending with the note that on the day gay marriage was finally legalized in the United States, the White House itself wore the colors of Pride. It’s a delicate balance of history, tragedy, then encouragement and possibility, and it all fits together perfectly. The art is colorful, and the cast has a few very nice moments of inclusion that show how diverse the LGBTQ community can be. The length is perfect, and JJ adored the rainbows. This is a fantastic book to introduce young readers to, not only the story of the flag and the man behind it, but the equality and love it represents. Stunning, and Baby Bookworm approved!

Tim’s Goodbye (Steven Salerno)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Tim’s Goodbye by Steven Salerno, a story about how we deal with loss.

The day is bright and sunny, but Margot doesn’t feel it. Margot is sad because Tim is gone. She tries to feel happy with the sunshine, but she can’t, so she simply sits and feels. She leaves for a moment to be alone. Melinda arrives then, with her French horn, and Roger brings a box. Vincent holds balloons and Otto wears his best hat. Buddy the dog is there, faithful to Margot in her time of need. The friends contribute what they can – the box, the balloons, flowers, a song. Then Margot delicately places Tim – her late pet turtle, who has been slyly visible to the reader along – into the box with the flowers, and watches his balloon-powered rise into the sky. Later on, she thinks of Tim swimming among the stars, with warm sun to bask in and cool waters to swim, “forever a happy turtle”. She feels Tim’s peace, and it makes her happy too.

Oh, this was really quite something. Heartbreaking, uplifting, comforting, and dear all at once. The way the progression of Margot’s grief unfolds – first her sadness and need to be alone, then buoyed by the support her friends give, and at last her acceptance of Tim’s death – is a subtle and powerful way of letting kids know that mourning is just that: a process. Furthermore, in her friends’ gentle and thoughtful actions, it shows young children how they can be there for someone who is dealing with loss. Finally, the non-denominational depiction of Tim’s beautifully serene afterlife will give children comfort for their own losses. All of this is drawn in timeless, minimal, beautiful illustrations in black across soothing tones of yellow and blue. This is pure, powerful, and perfect in its simplicity and earnest heart. Wonderful, and Baby Bookworm approved.

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)