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Cumming, Peter.

Pictures by P. John Burden. Charlottetown, Ragweed Press, c1984. 36pp, paper, $5.95, ISBN 0-920304-34-6. CIP

Grades 1-3
Reviewed by Elaine Atwood

Volume 13 Number 5
1985 September

Farmer, a horse, is sold to a cruel master and taken from his familiar island home. When the gate to his pasture is left open he runs away through fog across the mainland to the ocean, eventually swimming across a stretch of sea until he reaches his island home again.

In addition to sounding just a bit too much like Black Beauty, there are further problems with this plot. Loose ends abound. For example, how did Fanner's original island owners deal with the horse's return? The book ends with him running into his old barn stall and the children rushing to bring him carrots, but surely their father would feel some obligation to return the horse to the man who bought him. In addition, there is little feeling in the story. It could be heart-wrenching as the children's horse is sold but we do not see how they feel or whether or not their father is concerned about their reactions, or why Farmer was sold.

The authors are concentrating on the historical truth of this story, that of the miraculous return of the horse over the ocean. The emphasis is on his ability to find his way back home and the hardships of the journey, but it is not enough to please young readers who will want more to their adventure story. The black-and-white sketches on each page correlate well with the text. The print is easy to read with lots of white spaces. The binding, however, will not last.

While I would like to recommend this book because of its Canadian setting (the Magdalen Island in the Gulf of St. Lawrence) and interesting idea for a story, these are not enough, and unless a library needs to build up a collection of Maritime historical fiction for children, I do not recommend the purchase of this book.

Elaine Atwood, St. Albert P.L., St. Albert, Alta.
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