Sunday, March 15, 2015

The Three Little Horses and the Big Bully Donkey

In the first entry of Liana-Melissa Allen’s Horse Valley Adventures children’s book series, three equine protagonists lose their home to a fire and must depend upon themselves while wandering a forest and defending against an antagonistic donkey that wanders around wrecking other animals’ homes, the story based on “The Three Little Pigs.” The cover art depicts the three eponymous horses wandering along a path with their supply-laden wagons while the titular donkey bully secretly gazes at them from behind a bush on one side of the illustration, with the visual style being general cartoony and liberal with typical animal anatomy.

The story itself opens with the three chief horses, named Lax, Max, and Jack, who inhabit the “magical” land of Horse Valley, living in a home near a dark forest, which they and other animals avoid due to its inhabitance by an asinine bully. The equine trio is returning home from the market when they smell smoke from a fire that engulfs their residence, likely caused from lightning from a storm that occurred in the morning. The first illustration within the book depicts the horses looking upon the flames fearfully, accompanied by a nameless bluebird also seeming fearful due to the fire.

The equines attempt to salvage items from their incinerating home, although they err in doing so, the following illustration depicting them and the aforementioned avian evading the flames, although they manage to save some of their possessions as the fire worsens, the next piece of art showing them inside their burning house, where Lax looks the most fearful of his equivalently-stressed companions. Fortunately, they get out of their former home before its complete disintegration, with Lax sustaining some scrapes from crashing through one of its walls, the next artwork depicting the three horses in the middle of a rainstorm, Jack and Lax sprawled out on the grass while Max looks on, the bluebird, seeming somewhat sore, appearing as well.

Max then suggests that he and his equine brethren move into the woods and erect separate abodes, although Jack recalls the antagonistic donkey and insists they remain together, the subsequent illustration depicting the horses in an argument while their house burns in the background, the bird continuing to appear. The storm appears to be over in the next artwork, the horses bedraggled and having agreed to separate. Lax is first to construct his new residence, although he yearns to watch television instead; he believes he can build a home out of nearby bushes, not wishing to do much work.

The next piece of art depicts Lax’s resultant residence, appearing a little like a green human head with two window “eyes,” the bully donkey peeking out from the woods near an unnamed rabbit, the unidentified bluebird and another red-and-yellow avian appearing as well. Then, as he wishes, he watches TV in his new home, with a humorous reference to the “Horse-Pirates of the Caribbean.” The asinine adversary taunts Lax from outside his bush home, kicking it asunder with a single blow, the horse injured by the thorns from the shrubberies, as shown by the next art showing the wrecked residence and the triumphant bully in the middle of a kick, the nameless rabbit looking on helplessly. The following piece shows a crying Lax stuck in the remnants of his bush abode while the bully laughs haughtily, the rabbit expressing his anger.

In the meantime, Max seeks materials for his own fortress of solitude, the story indicating his interest in playing videogames while eating, finding old branches and sticks to serve as components for his own residence. The following illustration shows his resultant spiky-looking residence, upon which he looks happily while the bully donkey spies on him from behind a nearby tree. Once Max enters his new home to play videogames and eat, the asinine adversary demands entry, which the horse refuses, the next art showing a nervous Max working on both a lollipop and a videogame while the donkey taunts him from outside, another unidentified animal, in this case a squirrel, looking on.

Consequentially, the bully kicks Max’s residence asunder, the following artwork depicting him doing so, the horse caught in the mix and falling into the sticks that once formed his house, the next illustration depicting his legs sticking out of the mess, while two unidentified birds look on and the donkey laughs, having stolen the equine’s lollipop. While this occurs, the oldest of the horses, Jack, too seeks materials for his intended abode, in his instance stones that he decides to mix with honey, mud, and water for a sturdier home, the next piece of art showing him happily looking at a pile of rocks in the woods, the unnamed bluebird from before seeming content too.

The bees in the following art don’t seem very happy as Jack purloins their honey, the bluebird chased by a pair as their brethren eye the horse, appearing scared. Mercifully, the equine is successful in his endeavor and mixes the gathered materials to form his home’s walls, using an old log to produce a sturdy door, the text indicating he received some stings from the bees. The next illustration depicts Jack erecting his residence while bees appear miffed from stealing their honey, the bluebird appearing to aid him while another unidentified avian looks on.

Jack ultimately enters his new residence to fulfill his reading hobby, and unsurprisingly, the donkey arrives to taunt him, although his hooves fail to rend the sturdy door, and demands ingress that the horse naturally denies. The subsequent piece of art depicts Jack inside his residence reading, along with the nameless bluebird, while the bully appears miffed from the injury inflicted by his failure to knock down the door, a bee and a rabbit looking on. Thus, the donkey attempts to destroy the abode, failing in his endeavor, the next artwork showing him exhausted by his attempts while the mentioned rabbit points and laughs.

The unsuccessful bully attempts to enter Jack’s residence via defenestration, but gets stuck halfway and implores the horse for mercy that he quickly receives, promising that he’ll cease his bullying, receiving several beestings during his struggle, the following illustration showing the insects’ assaults while Jack and the bluebird triumphantly look on at the stuck donkey. Then the horse kicks the bully out of the window, the next art showing him about to do so, and the piece afterward showing Jack and his avian companion looking at the slumped and injured donkey, whom he recruits to aid in his search for his brothers.

Lax is the first one he finds, the accompanying illustration showing him nursing his wounds from the thorns of his former home. Max is next, the following piece depicting Jack and the bully tugging him out of the sticks of his own failed abode, Lax looking on nervously. Afterward, Jack invites his brothers and the donkey under the condition that the former help around the house and not fulfill their television-watching and videogaming hobbies too frequently, to which they agree, the next artwork depicting the equines and their new friend the donkey all happy.

The story concludes with the donkey and the two younger horses helping Jack clean his house and prepare dinner, the final illustration of the main text depicting Max playing a guitar, Jack holding a book, the donkey playing a piano, and Lax dancing. A smaller illustration appears after the mention of the author’s other works and shows an orange and gray horse reading. In the end, the tale is a nice twist on that of the three little pigs, given its successful substitute of other animalian species, with plenty of humorous illustrations and the rare popular culture reference, being highly recommended for younger audiences.

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