Thunder Horse by Eve Bunting


Thunder Horse by Eve Bunting
Publisher: Roaring Book Press
Genre: Childrens, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (32 pages)
Age Recommendation: 6+
Rating: 3 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

When a girl receives a small horse from her aunt, she doesn’t quite know what to do with it. It turns out that this horse is a very special horse: it has wings.

As the horse grows and grows, so does the girl’s love for it, but as everyone knows, sometimes you have to let go of those you love so they can grow in their own way. But you can always hope they come back to you someday.

Eve Bunting’s Thunder Horse is a beautifully crafted tale that will work its way in to the hearts of readers, and the good thing is, they never have to let it go.

Sometimes loving someone can lead to painful decisions down the road.

What beautiful storytelling! I deeply enjoyed the way the author wove her lesson into the plot. She had an important message to share with the audience about allowing loved ones to make their own choices. The story was always more important than the message, though, and that made her point even clearer than it would have been if she’d paid less attention to creating a captivating and thought-provoking storyline before anything else.

The main character’s name was never revealed, and I found that odd and distracting. The audience knew the names of everyone from her teacher to her aunt to the small horse she was given in the first scene. It would have been easier for me to connect with this character if I knew what her family called her, even if she was only ever referred to by a nickname.

With that being said, I still liked the main character quite a bit. She was a clever, sensitive girl who clearly loved her magical horse quite a bit. Knowing from the very beginning that she’d have to say goodbye to him at some point only made me more eager to find out how she’d learn to adjust to life without him and if there was any way for her to figure out how to have a happier ending than the one her aunt warned her about.

Thunder Horse was a unique modern fable that I’d recommend to adults and children alike.

Oskar and the Eight Blessings by Tanya Simon and Richard Simon


Oskar and the Eight Blessings by Tanya Simon and Richard Simon
Publisher: Roaring Book Press
Genre: Childrens, Holiday, Historical
Length: Short Story (41 pages)
Age Recommendation: 6+
Rating: 5 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

Winner of the 2015 National Jewish Book Award for Children’s Literature

A refugee seeking sanctuary from the horrors of Kristallnacht, Oskar arrives by ship in New York City with only a photograph and an address for an aunt he has never met. It is both the seventh day of Hanukkah and Christmas Eve, 1938. As Oskar walks the length of Manhattan, from the Battery to his new home in the north of the city, he passes experiences the city’s many holiday sights, and encounters it various residents. Each offers Oskar a small act of kindness, welcoming him to the city and helping him on his way to a new life in the new world. This is a heartwarming, timeless picture book.

No immigrant knows for sure if he or she will be welcomed in their new country or if the place they’re moving to will ever feel like home.

One of the biggest reasons why I chose such a high rating for this story had to do with the blessings that Oskar discovered after he arrived in New York City. I tried to predict what they might be ahead of time. While some of my guesses were pretty close to being correct, I was pleasantly surprised by the authors’ creative approaches to what a child would think of as a blessing. They worked hard to approach this idea from every angle, and it showed.

There was so much kindness woven into this character’s long, chilly walk to his aunt’s house. I loved seeing how the people Oskar met treated him, especially once they realized that he was travelling alone and had almost nothing to call his own. The idea of wandering around in an unfamiliar city can be a bit scary even for adults, so I was thrilled by how much compassion this character found while he was trying to find his new home.

The reference to the Night of Broken Glass was nicely handled. The page that discussed it went into enough detail to show young readers what happened that evening, but it also kept the explanation appropriate for this age group. This is the sort of book I’d happily to read to younger children. At the same time, the hints about that part of German history could also lead to more in-depth conversations about the time leading up to World War II with older kids who wanted to learn more about it.

Oskar and the Eight Blessings was a gorgeous Hanukkah story. I can’t recommend it highly enough.