Poet Galing (1917-2013) leads Tony, a dairy delivery horse, through the veil of memory, encantatory phrasing—circling and repetitious—calling him plodding from pre-dawn into the present, his sturdy flank barely expanding with the effort.
“Tony // that was his name // he was such a / wonderful horse // and pulled a milk / truck / for Tom, the young / driver // Tom Jones, / in the early hours of the / morning, // pulling the wagon loaded / with milk, butter, / and eggs….” Stead’s astonishing pencil illustrations, simultaneously granular and silkily suggestive, deliver corporeal portraits of Tony’s musculature, his lashes, cocked ear, subdued sentience, and pathos. Her foggy, blotted green-and-gold palette (achieved through monoprinting) suggests not only nocturnal darkness and lamplight, but also the patina of coppered time. Gauzy line drawings and matte colors surface in ample creamy, blank space, just as memories float up out of the subconscious. At once moody and poignant, murky and clear, intensely personal and vague, atmospheric and studiously specific, the pictures and language cohere magically to remind readers how memories often shimmer and shape-shift. Young readers will simply marvel at the poem’s lulling, looping cadence and at the pictures’ extraordinary empathy and likeness—fitting enough for a story about a horse, his driver, eggs, milk, butter, and a man’s pure, simple appreciation.
Readers will hear the “clip-clop, clip-clop, clip-clop” in every image of this astonishing book. (Picture book. 2-12)