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Review of Tony

Tony by Ed Galing, illustrated by Erin SteadTony
by Ed Galing; illus. by Erin E. Stead
Primary    Porter/Roaring Brook    32 pp.
2/17    978-1-62672-308-5    $16.99

As a picture book, Tony is radically gentle. The late author’s poem describes a brief but seemingly habitual encounter between a customer of the milk-truck driver Tom Jones and Jones’s horse, Tony. Objectively, little happens over the course of the poem (and thus the picture book)—milk, butter, and eggs are delivered, pleasantries are exchanged, and the horse receives a kind pat. However, the quiet significance of the encounter is revealed through tender, plain, and assured verse—“Tony was all white / large, sturdy, / with wide gentle eyes / and a ton of love.” The narrator’s admiration for Tony is clear, and although the past tense hints at eulogy, Stead’s illustrations are not weighted down by sorrow. Restrained pencil drawings are thoughtfully positioned over and across smears of muted green and yellow ink—with little adherence to image or page borders—that develop a soothing atmosphere. Levels of detail, tone, and sharpness are masterfully calibrated to guide the reader across each page, and in some instances (such as a tight zoom of Tony’s beautifully rendered left eye, accompanied by the words “his head would bow down / and his eyes would glow”) focus on a particular component of an image with graceful precision.

From the July/August 2017 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

About Patrick Gall

Patrick Gall works as a librarian for children in preschool through eighth grade at the Catherine Cook School in Chicago.

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