Sunday, December 9, 2012

Belle's Journey by Marilynn Reynolds illustrated by Stephen McCallum

When I lived in Canada a number of years ago I had the idea of collecting one picture book from each Province and so that is how I came to buy Belle's Journey which is set in the prairies of Saskatchewan.

Every Saturday, in every season, Molly rides her old brown mare Belle into town to her piano lesson.  It is eight miles and there and eight miles back.  "On hot summer days they rode under a high yellow sun and a blue sky. In winter they trudged along the trails beneath grey skies and a low pale sun that gave no warmth."

Molly has no saddle but her horse is a faithful friend and even when she occasionally slides off her back, Belle always waits patiently while Molly remounts. One very cold winter day Molly rides into town and Belle waits patiently.  As they begin the long journey home a violent blizzard hits. "Within minutes the wind was hurling sheets of snow across the fields. ... The little girls face was so cold, she could hardly move her mouth to call out. The snow flew into her eyes and cheeks, stinging like needles.  The shriek of the wind filled her ears."

The journey is a tortuous one and so vividly described I was sure they would not make it but then in the distance they see the familiar shape of a windmill.  Molly's clothes are completely frozen onto Belle's back and her father has to cut them off.  When Molly is safely inside her father attends to Belle rubbing her down, warming her up and feeding her.  Both horse and child recover.  Children who love horses will adore this special book.  Here is one illustration.

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