The ninth installment from the Tales from the Chinese Zodiac picture-book series offers readers a look into the characteristics of being born in the Year of the Horse.
Hannah, a bright-eyed foal, and her human friend Tom wonder what they’ll be when they grow up. Equine family and friends tell what they do for a living: Papa is a racehorse and Mama a show horse, and Uncle Fu pulls large loads. Hannah’s abilities are tested when Tom’s art teacher, Lao Shi, asks Tom to take her commissioned painting to the governor at the capital, a long journey away. Tom needs a partner, and after he interviews other animals (all from the Chinese zodiac) for the job, Hannah announces she can do it. According to the author’s note, people born in horse years are energetic and animated but also impatient or headstrong. Enlivened with Wood’s peppy, commercial-looking illustrations, the story feels most energetic when the twosome learn to work together as one, as they encounter hazards (other zodiac animals) during their journey. But there is a missed opportunity. The tale overloads on only favorable horse personality traits, leading to a predictable outcome. Chin (The Year of the Snake, 2013, etc.) overlooks flaws, like impatience, which robs Hannah of the chance to overcome and rise above them.
A one-note ride into an enjoyable Chinese lunar-calendar tradition, this trots instead of gallops. (list of zodiac animals) (Fiction. 4-8)