Picture Book Review: 'Cowboy Boyd and Mighty Calliope'
by Lisa Moser
illustrated by Sebastiaan Van Doninck
Random House, 2013
Calliope isn't your average horse. In fact, she isn't a horse at all. When she and Cowboy Boyd ride onto the Double R Ranch, Slim, Hardtack, and Rancher Rose comment on how short, dusty and lumpy she is. But Boyd believes that Calliope can get the job done, even if she is a rhinoceros.
First they put her to work mending fences, and Calliope is slow at lifting posts. Then she sets off to round up stray horses, and returns with a prairie dog, a jackrabbit, and a coyote (all of whom were drawn to her natural friendliness). When it's time to head off to bed, Calliope plows through the pasture fence, through the barn wall, and through the bunkhouse door to climb into the bunkbed with Cowboy Boyd.
Rancher Rose has to tell them it isn't working out, and Boyd and Calliope make plans to leave the next morning. But when a storm strikes in the middle of the night, and the cattle spook, it takes Calliope's friendly ways to bring them back to the ranch. And Slim, Hardtack, and Rancher Rose finally recognize the talent that Boyd saw in his animal all along.
Lisa Moser's light heart-warming story is complemented by the colorful cartoonish illustrations of Sebastiaan Van Doninck, which depict Calliope as squat and oversized while the human characters are all cowboy-lanky with large heads and hats. The color palette reflects the Southwest landscape with golds and browns setting off the blue sky (which turns grey-black when it rains).
Children and adults alike will cheer for Calliope as she smashes stereotypes (as well as fences and walls) and rejoice when she ultimately lives up to her potential and earns her rightful place on the ranch.
Lisa Moser has never worked on a ranch and has only seen a rhinoceros at the zoo, but she has been blessed with people who have loved and encouraged her, and three steadfast, loyal dogs. She has written several books for children and lives happily in Wisconsin with her husband and daughter.
Sebastiaan Van Doninck grew up in a small town surrounded by cows, trees, and twelve brothers and sisters. Today he is an illustrator and teacher in Antwerp, Belguim.
Renée Vaillancourt McGrath has worked at Montana Public Radio as a program host since 2002. Her background is in librarianship and she currently works as a freelance editor, blogger, and website developer. Check out more of her book reviews at reneesreads.com.