by Sheila Heti, Painted by Clare Rojas, published 2011
“The horse already had a question prepared. He shuffled his feet on the ground and said, ‘What is the reason I was made a horse and not some other animal?” The light said, ‘Because we needed another horse.”
In this exquisitely painted and carefully crafted children’s book, the essential question of life is asked and answered. “Why am I me?” children often wonder. The book never preaches, lectures, or pontificates. It barely has any words at all. In its scant number of oversized pages, with strikingly beautiful illustrations, the horse comes to understand the answer. And that’s that.
I include very few illustrated books on this website, because I’m searching for quality literature. But from time to time, a children’s book stands out because the illustrations and the text create a profound reading experience. This book is one of them. You could read it aloud to five-year-olds, and older children who read it themselves will come away touched by its simple and loving message.
I shared it with a colleague the other day, and said, “It’s sweet.” She replied, “It’s more than that. It’s an important book. You should start off each new student with this book before you begin your remedial work. It answers all their unasked questions… why me? Am I different?” And so I will.
I also want to give a shout out to McSweeney’s McMullens. They are continuing to amaze me as they publish children’s books with utmost care and quality. They are the ones who reprinted Momo, and I look forward to seeing their future titles as well. When you hold a well-crafted children’s book in your hand, it’s hard to settle for less from other publishers. Thank you, McSweeney’s McMullens.