Morris the Horse and Others of Course, written and illustrated by Phyllis J. Hendricks, is a picture book conceived as a long narrative poem. It tells the story of Miss Phyllis and her menagerie of toy friends, including an antique carousal horse she names Morris.
The book is written in two distinct parts. It begins with an introduction to Miss Phyllis and her world. Here, the reader learns about Miss Phyllis’ home, friends and many passions, which include collecting delightful stuffed animals and nurturing both tranquility and her deep faith. Part two reveals how Miss Phyllis found Morris and ultimately cured his loneliness by discovering the Merry-Go-Round Museum in Sandusky, Ohio, and sending him there to live. Part one reads as if it is nonfiction, whereas part two reads as if it is fiction.
The author illustrates the book herself with color photographs, watercolor illustrations and collages. As a result, the book feels more like a memory scrapbook and family keepsake than a deftly edited picture book for children. While Hendricks’ watercolors have delicate and gentle warmth, the mix of illustration styles is distracting to the professional eye and would have been improved by using watercolors exclusively.
Additionally, the poem is often hard to follow. In the beginning, Morris the Horse and his friends are referred to in the second person (“Morris the horse was a sad one indeed”). Mid-stream, however, the book suddenly changes to first person, and Morris becomes the narrator. (“I am Morris the Horse and I live here as well.”) This abrupt shift is confusing and will be jarring to young readers. Another major problem is that the pages are text-heavy and uncharacteristically dense for a children’s picture book.
All of these issues combined make it hard to recommend this book. In its current iteration, Morris the Horse and Others of Course will be treasured by family and friends, but it is likely to struggle to find a broader audience.
Also available in hardcover.