The Good-Luck Horse – 1944 Caldecott Honor Book

The Good-Luck Horse is a Chinese legend retold by Chih-Yi Chan and illustrated by her twelve-year old son, Plato Chan that was a 1944 Caldecott Honor book.  The main character, a young boy named Wah-Toong, wants a horse, so he cuts one out of paper, imagining it to be exactly as the horse he wants, but this paper flys over a wall to a nearby Magician who makes the horse come to life and grow.  The boy and the horse love each other, but the the horse, Good-Luck, manages to get into trouble and is renamed Bad-Luck Horse.  Even though he is able to right his wrongs, the horse is lonely and afraid of causing problems again, so he runs away and marries another horse of bad fortune.  They return to the stallion’s former home and again cause problems, but are able to save the day.  Eventually, the horse is able to help avert a war and thus is called the Good-Luck Horse forever.

Caldecott Criteria:

1. “Excellence of execution in the artistic technique employed.” For a young illustrator, the technique in these pictures is well-developed.  The pencil or pen drawings with green and orange fill-in only on every other page is certainly different than other books and interesting.

2. “Excellence of pictorial interpretation of story, theme, or concept.” – The story is easy to follow through the illustrations.

3. “Appropriateness of style of illustration to the story, theme or concept.” – The decidedly ancient Chinese appearance of the characters and setting make this story seem like thelegend that it is, but the pleasant story-book horse seems a bit out of place.

4. “Delineation of plot, theme, characters, setting, mood or information through the pictures.” – The plot, setting, moods, and characters are all very clear through the pictures.  It is funny that, when the horse finds his wife-to-be, even the horses have a flirtatious look in their eyes.

5. “Excellence of presentation in recognition of a child audience.” – My children enjoyed this book, but I found that they were not as engaged by the pictures as by the fanciful storyline.

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