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Children's Fiction Horses

If a Horse Had Words

by (author) Kelly Cooper

illustrated by Lucy Eldridge

Initial publish date
Jun 2018
Horses, Farm & Ranch Life, Friendship
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Jun 2018
    List Price

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Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 4 to 8
  • Grade: p to 3


For horse-loving readers of all ages, a lyrical and exquisitely illustrated picture book following the relationship between a boy and a horse, separated then reunited. This is a story about enduring friendships and how language is shaped by our experiences.

The foal is born on a spring morning of sunshine and snow melt. If she had words, she would say willow, crocus, puddle and sky . . .

Red Badger is a newborn foal learning to stand when she slips and gets stuck in a muddy badger hole. It is a young boy who frees her, and his kindness and gentleness mark the beginning of their friendship -- though she will always be wary of the ground that briefly trapped her. As the seasons pass on the ranch, Red Badger learns more about her world: Fall is leaf rustle and fence posts. Winter is white hills and long nights. The boy is hay, a gentle touch, playing in the snow and the sweet smell of peppermints. If a horse had words, the word would be . . . friend.

This is a beautifully written and heartwarming story told from the horse's point of view that follows her relationship with a boy from the day she is born, to when she is sent to auction, to the day she and the boy are reunited at a rodeo where she has become a bronc and he a cowboy.

About the authors

Kelly Cooper grew up in the tiny farming community of Senlac, Saskatchewan, where she vaccinated, branded, and ear-tagged cattle, sorted calves on foot and on horseback, drove cattle to pasture on horseback, and drove a tractor and a three-ton truck. A graduate of the University of Saskatchewan, Cooper taught high school English and later moved to Belleisle Creek, New Brunswick, with her husband, where until recently, she worked as an art teacher. The only girl among siblings and cousins, she routinely did "men's work," and now works with her husband on their dairy farm. Cooper's stories have been published the Fiddlehead, Room of One's Own, Descant, Grain, Prairie Fire, the Malahat Review, and the Windsor Review. They have been featured in anthologies such as Coming Attractions '02, Water Studies, and Home for Christmas. "River Judith" won the Fiddlehead Fiction Prize, and an early version of Eyehill won the prestigious David Adams Literary Award. Eyehill is her long-awaited first book.

Kelly Cooper's profile page

Lucy Eldridge's profile page


  • Winner, New Brunswick Book Awards - Alice Kitts Memorial Award for Excellence in Children’s Writing

Editorial Reviews

"Readers drawn to stories about the unbreakable bonds between children and animals will remember this one." --starred review, Publishers Weekly

"This book is written in a poetic and lyrical manner. . . . A solid and engaging choice for horse lovers or anyone who has ever bonded with an animal." --School Library Journal

"If a Horse Had Words is a colourful exploration of language and friendship. . . . [A] gentle and emotive story [that] will capture the hearts of many readers. The illustrations and lyrical text bring the story to life and capture a gentle sense of whimsy that will delight and engage young readers. Highly recommended." --CM Magazine

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