Sunday, February 14, 2021


Private reserve of my childhood books, all, dare I say, dog-eared and thoroughly re-read. Despite the Arabian peninsula and deserted island fantasies of the first and second books, the Walter Farley 'Black Stallion' series were based largely upon, believe it or not, modern Thoroughbred and Harness racing of the author's era. One gets a hint of this direction in the ending of the fabulous 1979 "art movie for children," The Black Stallion, directed by Carroll Ballard with visuals courtesy of the greatest cinematographer in the entire film business, Caleb Deschanel.

Besides the ancient Oz books I inherited, the newer ones also have an equine theme. For instance, "The Silver Princess of Oz" featured the title character's sidekick steed (pictured below.) "Ojo in Oz" and "The Emerald Wand" were both plot-heavy with unicorns.  

Half the alchemy of the Oz series was its illustrations. Although the writing became public domain, no reprints succeed except those with the original or with the best possible retro illustrations which also encapsulate the magic. Most older titles use its initial publication art by John R. Neil, a contemporary of original Oz authors L. Frank Baum and Ruth Plumly Thompson.

All illustrations pictured here are by Neil with the exception of the third one, cladistically placed with the unicorns, fair usage © by William Stout, an always amazing contemporary artist also justly celebrated for his paleontology and fantasy paintings.
















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