Picture Book Review: Adrian Simcox Does NOT Have a Horse by Marcy Campbell & Corinna Luyken

Review: Adrian Simcox Does NOT Have a Horse by Marcy Campbell & Corinna Luyken
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Penguin Random House Canada. Thank you!
Publication: August 14, 2018 by Dial Books
Book Description:

A classic in the making, this heartwarming story about empathy and imagination is one that families will treasure for years to come.

Adrian Simcox tells anyone who will listen that he has a horse–the best and most beautiful horse anywhere.

But Chloe does NOT believe him. Adrian Simcox lives in a tiny house. Where would he keep a horse? He has holes in his shoes. How would he pay for a horse?

The more Adrian talks about his horse, the angrier Chloe gets. But when she calls him out at school and even complains about him to her mom, Chloe doesn’t get the vindication she craves. She gets something far more important.

Written with tenderness and poignancy and gorgeously illustrated, this book will show readers that kindness is always rewarding, understanding is sweeter than judgment, and friendship is the best gift one can give.

Adrian Simcox Does NOT Have a Horse brings debut author Marcy Campbell together with The Book of Mistakes artist Corinne Luyken to tell the story of a young boy named Adrian who shares stories about his beautiful horse, and Chloe, a classmate who becomes angered by Adrian’s seemingly preposterous stories.

When we are introduced to Chloe and Adrian, we learn a few things right away. Namely, that Adrian Simcox “tells anyone who will listen that he has a horse” and that while “some kids believe him”, Chloe emphatically does not. Speaking with classmate Janie, and then with her mom, Chloe insists that Adrian cannot have a horse with the following statement:  “Adrian Simcox gets the free lunch at school. His shoes have holes. Kelsey told me her cousin has a horse, and it’s super expensive. He can’t take care of a horse”. While her mom and teacher suggest patience, Chloe reaches her limit one day, shouting at Adrian in front of other kids about his obvious lack of horse. When Chloe tells her mom again about Adrian’s lying, her mom takes Chloe (and dog Chompers) on a walk that leads them to Adrian’s home. What follows is a wonderfully drawn detente of sorts, as Chloe and Adrian experience a silent feed of emotions that lead to an unspoken agreement as well as a revelation regarding Adrian’s imagination.

Perhaps there may readers may be left wondering at the fact of Adrian’s horse at the end of the story; understandable, though perhaps another question or two to dig into more might be: why (at least for much of the story) does Chloe need to prove her point so much? Why do you think she is so drawn to Adrian, if only for her desire to belittle him? Does it matter in the end if Adrian actually has a horse? I enjoy a read that asks questions and asks its audience to think…to reflect, and I feel that Adrian Simcox Does NOT Have Horse offers that- in addition to its aesthetic gorgeousness. Luyken’s artwork, which you can get a sense of in the fantastical The Book of Mistakes, makes such an impression here. The combination of Luyken’s soft strokes and bright swells of colour, of the contrasting hues between Chloe’s world and Adrian’s, of washes and lines of colour that mold, shadow and create, of Chloe’s often discomfited facial expressions, and of Adrian’s horse…what an experience to soak it in.

Overall, a stunning picture book. Raising matters of empathy, understanding, recognition of when to let go, discernment of privilege, and of imagination, Adrian Simcox Does NOT Have a Horse is excellent. The combination of Marcy Campbell’s softly assertive writing- the text is really refined and approachable- with the magnificent magic of Corinne Luyken’s artwork something to behold and appreciate. When I first read Matthew Cordell’s Wolf in the Snow last year, I had an immediate feeling- a sudden feeling of something intangiblethat the book would be a year-end standout (…interesting note that Wolf in the Snow later won Cordell the Caldecott!). I have this similar feeling about Adrian Simcox Does NOT Have a Horse. It is a superb picture book that should be read and considered (and appreciated) by readers of any age.

I received a copy of this title courtesy of Penguin Random House Canada in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and comments are my own.

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