Written by Toshia Stelivan and illustrated by Dan Rebegea, Horse of a Different Color is clearly a labor of love. The picture book begins with the silhouette of a horse and a heartfelt message to the author’s daughters, Madison and Morgan, as well as a message of gratitude to other family members.
Readers quickly learn it is Madison’s birthday and she will pick out a pony to ride at a ranch. Madison, her little sister, Morgan, and their mother all ride to the ranch together. At the ranch, Madison is surprised to see two friends from school. All is well until Madison needs to pick a pony to ride. Madison is overwhelmed while choosing a pony, since they are all different colors. The problem appears to be resolved when Madison’s mother agrees that like Madison and her school friends, horses are different colors and all unique.
The middle-class family seems to be headed by a single mother with luminous brown skin and wavy black hair. Both girls appear to be biracial with tight curls and tan skin. Middle-class single parented Black families remain underrepresented in children’s picture books, and I imagine Stelivan wanted to gift her girls with a book that mirrored (to reference Rudine Sims Bishop) their family.
Although Madison and Morgan will surely treasurer this precious gift, I don’t see the book having a wider appeal, because of it is so specific to this family. Even more, the computer-generated images are quite distracting. The mother character is depicted in the same pose with the same fixed smile several times.
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