Rosie's Magic Horse

Russell Hoban, Author, Quentin Blake, Illustrator
Russell Hoban, illus. by Quentin Blake. Candlewick, $15.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-7636-6400-8
Reviewed on: 12/10/2012
Release date: 02/12/2013
Paperback - 32 pages - 978-1-4063-4514-8
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Wishes come true with giddy frequency in this final picture book from Hoban, who died in 2011. A girl named Rosie picks up a discarded ice-pop stick and adds it to her collection, which she keeps in a cigar box. One magical midnight the ice-pop stick collection turns into Stickerino, a flying horse. Rosie longs to pay the mountain of bills that worries her father, and Stickerino takes Rosie over skyscrapers and across desert wastes to a secret pirate hideout full of treasure. Blake's pirates, goggle-eyed and snaggle-toothed, finger their loot with dopey smiles as Rosie and Stickerino approach. Hoban's signature wordplay adds fizz to the treasure-stealing caper. To distract the pirates, Stickerino "disguised himself as an ice-cream cart and jingled his ice-cream tune." When the pirates notice Rosie escaping with a chest of gold, Stickerino "uncarts" himself and turns into a swarm of ice-pop sticks, "stickling" the pirates until they fall about "laughing helplessly." It's the cascade of childhood fantasies fulfilled that make the story such a rousing success. Rosie outwits the pirates with no harm to anyone, saving her household in a single night ("Where did this come from?" her father asks, astonished, about the chest of gold on the kitchen table. "It was a long gallop," she says in response). She rides a magic creature who does her bidding without question ("Where to?" Stickerino asks her. "Anywhere there's treasure," Rosie replies. "No problem," he tells her). Blake collaborated with Hoban on the Whitbread-winning How Tom Beat Captain Najork and other titles, and his ink-and-watercolor drawings are as antic as ever. Rosie's house is cozy and lived-in, with old drawings on the wall, and toys and books crowding her dresser. The pirate scenes are crammed with cheerful chaos, and the light, weightlessness, and long horizons of Stickerino's flight make the impossible seem close. Hoban's books asked big questions, and the answers were sometimes murky and mournful, but this last one is a happy farewell salute. Ages 4 – 8. (Feb.)
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