Written by Jacqui Halpin and Illustrated by John Phillips
How delightfully disturbing having a horse behaving like a dog – a racehorse at that. Even the name Parmesan was intriguing as it has the same namesake as the dry Italian parmesan pasta cheese. At the author’s storytelling, I looked and listened to her reading the book. I soon wished I was up-close with the children to see the pictures. Their bubbly giggles had me craning and inching forward.
It’s a loveable story about running your own race, following what makes you happy, staying within your comfort zone and then having the confidence to extend yourself. This is evident in how relaxed Parmesan is with likeminded – his dog friends. How he ignores what others (horses) think. How he doesn’t like being with the unfamiliar – in the hands of strangers (race officials) and surroundings (the races). But when he sees something he recognises, he runs like the wind. Even in victory Parmesan is oblivious to all the attention. It’s also a story about reaching your potential with the help of people who care. This focuses on the trainer, Joe, who problem solves to help Parmesan realise who he really is. How Joe does it is imaginative and had me smiling all the way to the finish line with its witty photo finish.
The co-authors* have created an hilarious picture book. Due to the horse’s size, all his actions are over-exaggerated and big when watching Parmesan stretch, beg, fetch, scratch, dig etc.,. Not only are children learning about dog characteristics, but they’re practising their gross motor skills when acting out Parmesan’s dog behaviours. Use of role play in Drama, to access a child’s imagination, will lead to other animal suggestions for Parmesan to copy – possibly leading to a series (books, television etc.,). Also, understanding facial expressions will build on a child’s emotional responses. Similar to the other horses’ disapproving, incredulous, eyebrow raising human-like expressions at his antics. The startled expression on one horse when Parmesan sniffed its backside was priceless. And Parmesan’s mothering of a litter of puppies was so endearing readers will want to scoop them up – like this gutsy little picture book.
Parmesan The Reluctant Horse is available from publisher Little Pink Dog Books or any good book shops.
*co-authors – creators of word and picture narratives
Photo of John Phillips courtesy of Google Images.
Life’s too short without good books. MPB