Seuss, Dr. Dr. Seuss’s Horse Museum. Illus. by Andrew Joyner. Random House, 2019. 78p. $18.99. 978-0-399-55912-9.
Based on an unpublished manuscript found in the same box as the manuscript for What Pet Should I Get? (Random, 2015), this is a celebration of art. The narrative encourages the reader to look at all types of art, using the horse as a way to compare how different artists portray the same animal, using different styles and media.
Seuss describes styles from cave paintings to cubism and other modern art methods, which come to life in the illustrations. The Seuss-like cartoonish full color illustrations include reproductions of real museum artworks, often seen in frames. The people shown in the cartoons are seen looking at the artwork, all lead by a horse (wearing pants and a shirt) who acts as the museum tour guide, explaining what is being shown. The illustrations are essential to the text, since the narrative basically works as captions for the photos of the artwork. Children will catch a glimpse of some of Seuss’s famous characters among the museum visitors, including the Cat in the Hat and Horton the elephant.
The children and adults depicted in the cartoons are ethnically diverse; most of the art produced come from Western culture (mainly Europe) although there is artwork from Japan, the Navajo people, and African American artist Jacob Lawrence.
The concluding pages include a paragraph and small reproduction of each work of art included in the story. These entries spell out when and where it was created, and more about each artist. This is followed by a few pages on how the manuscript was discovered, and how Seuss created the story to go along with an educational television special on modern art in which he appeared. There are three rough sketches by Seuss that were intended for the original book, which helped the artist understand Seuss’s intention.
In many ways, it makes the most sense to classify this in the nonfiction section on art, since it is instructive (even though it is narrated by a horse!). This is a great book for a family or class anticipating a trip to an art museum, to help children understand what they will be observing.
Sewell, Anna. Black Beauty. Illus. by Christian Birmingham. Candlewick, 2019. 200p. $24.99. 978-1-5362-1124-5.
Using Sewell’s original text from 1877, a horse describes his life in this classic novel for all ages, featuring 50 new illustrations done using pastel chalk for the color portraits, and ink drawings for other illustrations. The color artwork reflects the late 1880’s in both style as well as the depiction of people and locations; the art may remind some of J.M.W. Turner’s work from the 1800’s due to the use of light and the Impressionistic style. The ink drawings are also well done.
The story is timeless, inspiring new laws in the way horses were treated at the time of publication, but it is still an important work that many families will enjoy. This edition is worthy of inclusion in most libraries, even if they have other versions.
Penny Peck, SJSU iSchool