I'll admit that I was always enchanted by horses. (Seriously, who wasn't?) But, perhaps due to realizing that my chances of horseback riding were pretty much limited to nickel-drop mechanicals outside a grocery store, or a ride on a pony in a tethered ring at a fair. I couldn't waste obsessive longing on having a horse when there were so many other dreams I saw as having greater potential for success.
|Candlewick Press, 2023|
In this case the child, Kayla, relates her adventure through first person voice. Her imagination is evident from the cover image (look at that again!) and the title page, both of which reveal that Kayla is a buckaroo, a cowgirl, a horseback-rider of unparalleled skill. She sees her red safety helmet as a western hat, and her challenge is to ride that WILD BLUE addition to her life. She has mastered and outgrown her tryke, "Pink Pony". Language throughout incorporates "on the plains' expressions, as when Kayla reports Daddy putting pony out to pasture and taking her, lasso included, to "wrangle a new one from the herd." Daddy is at her side (with baby sibling nestled against Daddy's chest), helping and encouraging as Kayla worries, wobbles, pumps.
The scene behind this sequence shifts from contemporary to a sheriff's office and a cactus. Just as that pedal-pumping seems to pay off, a page turn reveals WILD BLUE as a bucking bronco who throws Kayla to the ground. Despite determination and encouragement, Kayla concludes that Wild Blue is too spirited and asks for pony to come back. A trip to the park, with Daddy's red stallion and baby in back-seat safety, allows Kayla to take time, check Wild Blue for injuries, sing it a little calming song, and observe countless other "riders" whizzing past on their sturdy steeds. Kayla knows what to do: mounting, pushing off, wobbling and then pumping. She and Wild Blue ride as one. I won't spoil a lovely closing spread and lines, but they resonate with this likable character, family, and situation.
I will never forget my own early attempts to ride a two-wheeler without training wheels. It was a Saturday afternoon outside our urban home, which was situated right next to St. Mary's church. A large playground with a chainlink fence separated our front door from the church entry. A wide expanse of concrete sidewalk lined that route. Solid, safe space to learn to ride a bike. Dad helped me, held the seat, and released once my legs were pumping. A very elderly woman was coming toward me from church. She was undoubtedly grateful to have gone to confession when she saw me pedaling toward her with no sign of stopping, or steering. She edged toward the fence (to avoid edging into a busy street) and I did the same. I have no doubt that Dad was running behind trying to catch me, stop me, but he couldn't reach us in time. My front tire slammed into the fence and jolted me to a stop just as the poor woman shouldered the fence and grabbed it for all she was worth. We stared into each others' eyes for what seemed like forever until I broke into tears.
I recall being able to ride a two-wheeler after that day, but I have no idea how I managed to get back on and try again, or what that dear woman said to me or to Dad. I just remember seeing that impact coming, feeling sure that i would run right over an old woman and likely kill her! Never underrate the challenges of childhood's developmental stages. If any readers here have a story to share, I'd love to read them!