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BOOK: Gentle bedtime lullaby about mares, foals completed by pictures

“Hush, Little Horsie” contains poems about pairs of mares with their foals. (Photo courtesy of Jean Patrick)

By Jean Patrick

Republic Book Columnist

Many board books have simplistic illustrations and shallow content. But not this one.

“Hush, Little Horsie,” by Jane Yolen, is a gentle bedtime lullaby, beautifully accompanied by the artistic illustrations of Ruth Sanderson.

The lullaby contains repetitive two-stanza poems that describe a mare’s faithful love and protection of her foal. The repetition is secure and rhythmic: “Hush, little horsie,/ Asleep on the plain./ Your mama will shade you/ From sunshine and rain … ”

Although each stanza carries a similar pattern, the horses and scenery change.

In the first scene, the illustration features a black-and-white paint pair with a backdrop of a farm in the Appalachians. Other scenes show an appaloosa mare and foal on the plains, showing a skyline similar to the Black Hills. Another scene features a mare and foal on the seashore, reminiscent of Misty of Chincoteague.

Just like the stanzas, the illustrations also carry a predictable pattern. First, a doublepage spread shows the broad landscape. Next, the illustrations focus only on the mare-foal pair.

Illustrator Ruth Sanderson also remembers to include the small details. When the horses are on the moor, she shows a small rabbit hiding behind a rock. As the thoroughbred sleeps in his stall, a small bird perches in the doorway. In the background, race horses gallop in the haze.

The book ends with a mother and daughter reading together in bed. Horses fill the bedroom — in the paintings, on the lamp stand, and even in the girl’s arms.

Just as in the earlier scenes, the mother is faithful and present. However, the final scene shows an expansion, bringing a new dimension to the book.

Jane Yolen is the author of more than two hundred books for young people, including the well-loved “Owl Moon” and “How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight?” Ruth Sanderson is the illustrator of the popular Horse Diary series.

“Hush, Little Horsie.” By Jane Yolen. Illustrations by Ruth Sanderson. Random House, 2013. 26 pp.