Horse Song

By Booklist

The Lewins follow travelogue titles such as Top to Bottom Down Under (2005) with another picture-book chronicle of international adventure. This time, they visit Mongolia, where they witnessed the Naadam festival—a celebration that brings together nomadic tribes for sports competitions. The most popular events are the horse races featuring child jockeys who guide their “half-wild” steeds through along, arduous course. In simple, captivating language, the Lewins describe their long journey to the horse trainers’ camp, where they connect with a skilled nine-year-old jockey, Tamir, and his family, and learn about local customs—from the specifics of Mongolian horse wrangling to staple foods, such as mares’ milk. Then the festival begins, and the authors give a heart-pounding, moment-by-moment account of Tamir’s race: “The crowd strains forward. The pounding of hooves grows louder . . . The stallions are at full gallop.” Throughout, clearly presented cultural specifics mix with vivid sensory perceptions that will help children imagine themselves on the windy steppes, but it’s the color-washed sketches and beautiful full-page spreads of the thundering horses and jubilant festival goers that will truly capture readers’ attention and draw them into this handsome, heartfelt glimpse of a rarely explored culture. Children, and teachers, seeking more information will appreciate the closing spreads, which include additional cultural commentary and a glossary.