Picture Books for Horse Lovers
Picture Books for Horse Lovers
Beloved by children and adults alike, horses have a very special place in our world and in our literature. Although some of the most famous fictional horses—Black Beauty, the Black Stallion, Misty of Chincoteague—star in novels for older children, there are also plenty of wonderful picture books about horses. Here are some of my favorites—and I’m a tough critic, since I have been riding horses for more than twenty years. All these books—with two bonus exceptions at the end of the list—are in print and should be available from your local library or favorite bookstore.
Billy and Blaze by C. W. Anderson (1936)
This is a classic picture book—the first in a beloved series—about a little boy who loves horses. When Billy’s parents get him a pony for his birthday, Blaze quickly becomes Billy’s best friend, and the two have all sorts of adventures together—from rescuing a dog to winning a horse show. C. W. Anderson’s charming drawings capture the special relationship between boy and horse.
Clip-Clop by Nicola Smee (2006)
A friendly horse offers his barnyard friends a ride on his back. They urge him to run faster and faster, but when they ask him to stop, all the animals go flying into a huge haystack. Mr. Horse is worried about them until they jump up and yell, “Again!” This charming story is perfect for babies and toddlers, with its simple, attractive illustrations and delightful refrain of “Clip-clop, clippity-clop!”
Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa by Erica Silverman, illustrated by Betsy Lewin (2005)
Best friends Kate and her horse, Cocoa, star in four short stories about life on the ranch. This book is actually an easy reader, so the stories are called chapters, but each is definitely a stand-alone story and a perfect read-aloud for younger children. Kate and Cocoa’s friendship is sometimes silly (Cocoa has a one-track mind—he can’t stop thinking about food), but always heartwarming.
Fritz and the Beautiful Horses by Jan Brett (1981)
Fritz is a fuzzy, round, little pony—not magnificent and beautiful like the horses that live in the walled city. The people from the walled city laugh at him when he tries to be graceful, but he is gentle, dependable, and kind. When disaster strikes and the children of the city are stranded, Fritz comes to the rescue, and everyone realizes how special he really is. Jan Brett’s illustrations are rich and detailed, creating a stunning setting and capturing the character of sweet Fritz.
Horse Meets Dog by Elliott Kalan, illustrations by Tim Miller (2018)
Horse thinks that Dog is just a very small horse, while Dog thinks Horse is a huge dog. You can imagine the confusion and silliness that ensues. If you’ve ever had the opportunity to watch horses and dogs interact, you’ll know that Elliott Kalan’s story is often not far from the truth. Little ones will find both Dog and Horse’s obliviousness and Tim Miller’s cartoon illustrations absolutely hilarious.
A Horse Named Steve by Kelly Collier (2015)
Steve the horse wants to be exceptional, so when he finds a gold horn in the forest, he knows it is just what he needs. He ties it onto his head and parades around to show it off to his friends. But when his horn disappears, he worries that he has lost what makes him special. Kelly Collier amusingly captures Steve’s thought process and personality in both her evocative cartoon drawings and her deadpan narrative asides.
Horses: Trotting! Prancing! Racing! by Patricia Hubbell, illustrated by Joe Mathieu (2011)
Lively rhyming text and colorful illustrations describe the care of horses and the huge variety of jobs that they do.
Noni the Pony by Alison Lester (2010)
Noni the Pony is a fat little paint pony with a heart of gold. Upbeat rhyming text accompanies colorful cartoon illustrations to paint a picture of a day in the life of sweet Noni and her best friends, Dave Dog and Coco the Cat. This is a charming story that animal lovers (and especially horse lovers) will adore.
Pony Poems for Little Pony Lovers by Cari Meister, illustrated by Sara Rhys (2019)
This is the sweetest little book of simple poems—with the feel of nursery rhymes—about caring for, riding, and loving ponies. Sarah Rhys’s lush, charming illustrations are the perfect complement to the verses.
The Princess and the Pony by Kate Beaton (2015)
Princess Pinecone, the smallest warrior in her kingdom, wants a horse for her birthday—a big, strong warrior horse. She gets her wish—sort of. Her parents gift her a horse, but it is roly-poly and small, not exactly a warrior’s steed. Nonetheless, the princess and her pony prove to be an unstoppable team when it comes time for the great battle. Kate Beaton, a comics artist, has created a charming, vivacious duo and humorously captures the special relationship between a girl and her horse.
Sergeant Reckless: The True Story of the Little Horse Who Became a Hero by Patricia McCormick, illustrated by Iacopo Bruno (2018)
This is the true story of Sergeant Reckless, the only animal to officially hold military rank. During the Korean War, US Marines adopted Reckless, a chestnut race horse, with the hope that she would help them haul ammunition uphill to their canon. The little mare proved to be a valiant comrade on the battlefield, earning two Purple Hearts. This is an amazing story about a special animal, and the words and illustrations capture the spirit of Reckless.
Wonder Horse: The True Story of the World’s Smartest Horse by Emily Arnold McCully (2010)
This is the true story of the veterinarian Doc Key, who lived during the mid- to late 1800s, and his special horse, Jim Key. Doc taught Jim the alphabet, primary colors, and counting, and then the two of them began to show off Jim’s education to the public. Many were amazed by Jim’s knowledge, but some thought he was a fraud—until a team of professors from Harvard came to examine him and determined that Jim had really been educated. This is an amazing story, and Caldecott Medal winner Emily Arnold McCully’s lovely illustrations bring Jim and Doc Key’s adventures to life.
And two bonuses . . .
A Friend for Einstein: The Smallest Stallion by Charlie Cantrell and Dr. Rachel Wagner (2011)
Einstein is the smallest horse ever born—a mini miniature horse—and though he is just like any other horse, when he was a baby, he had trouble making friends. This is an absolutely charming fictionalized account of the friendship that developed between Einstein and a dog named Lilly, illustrated with adorable photographs of little Einstein. Although this title is now sadly out of print, you may be able to find a copy at your local public library or as a used book online.
Horseplay! by Karma Wilson, illustrated by Jim McMullan (2012)
Unfortunately, this silly title is out of print, but if you can find a copy at your library or a used book store, it’s definitely worth a read. Farmer notices one day that none of his horses can say awake, so he investigates and realizes that they are staying up all night—playing. He tries all sorts of things to get them to sleep, but they always seem to be one step ahead of him. As always, Karma Wilson’s rhyming text makes for a delightful read-aloud, and the illustrations of the goofy horses and irate farmer will have little ones giggling.