Many of Kathi's novels and picture books include a mix of memorable, emotionally engaging animal and human characters, so it is not at all surprising to hear that for Kathi — it all began with a horse.
You know that old question: what came first, the chicken or the egg? When it comes to me, the question could have been: what came first, the book or the horse? More specifically, it should be: what came first, Marguerite Henry’s books or the horse?
I can say with honesty that hardly anything in my life ever filled me with so much yearning as my deep desire for a horse of my own. Looking back, however, I can’t help but wonder if the reason I loved them so much was because my grandmother, starting before I could actually read, gave me a new Marguerite Henry book for each birthday and Christmas until I was well into my teens.
Reading the stories of Misty and her foals, the Godolphin Stallion, Gaudenzia, the white stallions of Lippiza, filled me right up. I pored over the beautiful illustrations by Wesley Dennis whose art seemed to capture the actual motion of the horses on the page. It was easy to fall into the story, easy to feel the wind in my hair.
It’s testament to both Henry and Dennis, that even now, when I open the pages of their books, I’m immediately taken back to those days when hardly anything else really mattered. I also have a keen knowing that the theme that runs through their body of work is kindness. Kindness and gentleness come to the rescue time after time.
Marguerite and Wesley couldn’t grant me the dream of my own horse, but they gave me something better—a way to be in the world. By riding through the landscape of their stories, I always had the horse of my dreams, right there on the page. Right there.
Kathi Appelt is the New York Times best-selling author of more than forty books for children and young adults.
Her first novel, THE UNDERNEATH, was named a National Book Award Finalist, a Newbery Honor Book, and the PEN USA Literature for Children Award. That was followed by KEEPER, which was named an NCTE Notable Children’s Book and a School Library Journal Best Book of the Year. Her memoir, MY FATHER’S SUMMERS (Henry Holt, 2004) won the Paterson Prize for Young Adult Poetry. Ms. Appelt was presented with the A.C. Greene Award by the Friends of Abilene Public Library, which named her a “Texas Distinguished Author.”
Her newest novel, THE TRUE BLUE SCOUTS OF SUGAR MAN SWAMP, was named a National Book Award Finalist and won the Green Earth Award and the Judy Lopez Memorial Award.
Marc Rosenthal (Atheneum 2014), is about the real-live dog, Mogie, who lives at the Ronald McDonald House in Houston.
In addition to writing, Ms. Appelt is on the faculty in the Masters of Creative Writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts.
She and her husband Ken live in College Station, TX with five adorable cats, Django, Peach, Mingus, Chica and Jazz. They are the parents of two even more adorable sons, Jacob and Cooper, musicians who both play the double bass. For more information, check her website: www.kathiappelt.com.