THE WILD HERD by Deborah Kalas
Kirkus Star


A Vanishing American Treasure
by , photographed by
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A stunning photo essay illuminating the lives and behavior of wild horses in the American West.

Debut author and professional photographer Kalas owned her first pony at age 6. Now in her 60s, she still rides six days a week. She tracked groups of wild horses—mostly at Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota and at the Return to Freedom Sanctuary in California—to craft this exquisite photographic record of a year in the horses’ lives. She introduces each seasonal chapter with brief observations on such topics as the formation of family units and the struggle to find food in winter, but it’s the photos that really tell the stories. Readers see horses fighting, rolling in the dust, and sheltering under a rock ledge; at one point, a missing ear tip reveals the danger of frostbite. But there are comical moments, too, such as horses resting their muzzles on each other’s backs, magpies perched on horses’ rumps, and a colt affectionately biting its mother’s ear. Kalas knows all of her horse subjects by name but avoids cluttering the pages with captions. Instead, identifying information, including birth years (and death years where applicable), is listed in an appendix that repeats images as thumbnails. The author’s admiration for these beautiful creatures is clear. Only once does she edge toward anthropomorphism, when she imagines that two horses “had a few words together.” The slightly ornate, italic typeface sometimes distracts. However, the lighting and definition are crisp throughout, with frozen motion injecting dynamism and the colors of the scrub and hills often complementing the horses’ markings. The photos are mostly shot at eye level, but they occasionally employ unusual points of view, as when the photographer watches from above as horses move from the bottom left to the upper right of the frame. The landscape shots are just as impressive, and glimpses of a bison herd accentuate the wildness of the setting. Kalas ends with notes on wild horse behavior and offers details of three organizations working to protect them.

A gorgeous photographic tribute to striking animals.

Pub Date: Oct. 15th, 2019
ISBN: 978-0-9976405-9-5
Page count: 160pp
Publisher: Val de Grâce Books
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 2019