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Carole Spray.
Illustrated by Kirn La Fave.

Camden East (ON), Camden House Publishing, c1981.
Distributed by Firefly.
56pp, paperbound boards, $7.95.
ISBN 0-920656-06-4.

Reviewed by G. Jane Crozier.

Volume 11 Number 1.
1983 January.

Carole Spray's The Mare's Egg is a delightful addition to the wealth of fictionalized Canadian history books. At long last, we have more materials to recommend to children, parents, and teachers like the Northern Lights series from PMA.

In Spray's work The Mare's Egg, a native immigrant's fate in the New World is humorously portrayed. When he decides to make his life as a farmer easier by buying a horse, he seeks advice from his neighbours concerning his purchase. All of his fellow farmers warn him not to buy a horse with long ears, not to buy a horse who bares his teeth, not to buy a horse low in the hindquarters since they will all rove to be uncooperative animals. To save money, he purchases a mare's egg, which in fact is really a large pumpkin, from a neighbour. After sitting on the egg for eight weeks, the farmer decides to rid himself of his pumpkin-egg. In the process, he frightens a small rabbit. Seeing the escape of the startled animal, he concludes his egg has hatched and rationalizes his loss since, in his mind, the rabbit resembles the three features he was warned to avoid in his horse. At the end of the story, the country bumpkin is still filled with naive optimism and plans to save ten dollars for another mare's egg.

The humour of The Mare's Egg is reinforced by Kim La Fave's illustrations, which are reminiscent of Walt Disney Studio production's cell animation in the 16mm film The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Just as Ichabod Crane's naivete is both paradoxically his downfall and his saving grace, so Spray's pioneer farmer is both victimized and is redeemed by his inexperience. In La Fave's illustrations, the stranger becomes a long-legged and loose-limbed bumpkin in the tradition of Disney's Ichabod Crane.

One other interesting feature of The Mare's Egg is the afterward by Margaret Atwood. This excerpt condensed from Days of the Rebels provides realistic details to balance the humorous touch of the tale. The background perspective provided by Atwood's Days of the Rebels should provide stimulus for discussion and for reading more works concerned with early Canadian history.

G. Jane Crozier, Mississauga P. L., Mississauga, ON.
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