Perfect Picture Book Friday – Rocking Horse Christmas

Hurray!  It’s Perfect Picture Book Friday!

Since I didn’t post a holiday book last week, and next week we’re doing our tribute to Universal Children’s Day, this may be my only holiday title for the year.  It’s a very special one.  I hope you like it 🙂
Rocking Horse Christmas
Written By: Mary Pope Osborne
Illustrated By: Ned Bittinger
Scholastic Press, 1997, Fiction
Suitable For: ages 3-8
Themes/Topics: beloved toy, Christmas, love, tradition
Opening: “The boy found the rocking horse under the tree.  He pushed it softly and made it rock.  “I’ll call you Shadow,” he said.  Then he climbed on Shadow’s back and they took off.
Brief Synopsis: One Christmas, a boy found a rocking horse under the tree.  He named him Shadow, and together they had many wonderful adventures.  But the boy grew up, and Shadow was carried to the attic and forgotten.  From the attic window Shadow watched and waited for his boy…
Links To Resources: HERE are some images you can print out, color, and cut out to make ornaments; have kids draw a picture of their favorite toy, or write a letter to their favorite toy telling why they love it and what makes it so special.  Discuss: do they think they’ll ever outgrow the toy? forget it? why or why not?
Why I Like This Book: This is a story that embodies the spirit of Christmas.  It’s a story about love, a little bit reminiscent of The Velveteen Rabbit, about that special bond between a child and a toy that feels so real in childhood but grows vulnerable with maturity.  On that first Christmas, the boy is delighted with his horse.  He makes him a little stall beside his bed and feeds him hay, and for years they lasso outlaws, joust with knights, go on safari, and race in the Kentucky Derby.  “Every night, before sleep, the boy touched Shadow’s mane.  ‘Ride you tomorrow,’ he’d whisper.”  Doesn’t everyone remember the toys they had that felt like real friends?  But the boy grows up, and Shadow is put away in the attic.  “Year after year, the rocking horse stared out the window, looking for his boy.”  One Christmas Eve a blizzard knocks out the window.  Shadow is covered in snow and his spirit begins to fade… until he’s discovered by a boy.  “What is it, Dad?”  The man wipes the snow from Shadow’s head.  Shadow looks into his eyes and recognizes him at once.  “He’s my oldest friend in the world,” the man said.  I cannot get past this part without tearing up.  If you can, you’re made of sterner stuff than I 🙂  And so Shadow is brought downstairs to delight a new generation, not forgotten any longer.
For the complete list of books with resources, please visit Perfect Picture Books.
A quick reminder for anyone who might have missed the announcement: At the suggestion of Pat at Children’s Books Heal and Vivian at Positive Parental Participation, on Friday December 14, which is the anniversary of the date in 1954 that the UN General Assembly recommended there should be a Universal Children’s Day, we are going to be doing our part to raise awareness of the plight of children around the globe and to promote the welfare of children in the world by posting books which focus on multicultural/multiracial issues, human rights, and/or children who have helped to change the world in some way.  For example, Pat plans to post the picture book version of The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind.  Beatrice’s Goat and Wangari’s Trees Of Peace are other examples of books in this category (although they’re already on our list.)  Please join us if you’d like to!  But of course, if you’ve already got a book in mind and would like to post a regular PPB that is fine too – all picture books are for children 🙂

Also, due to the Holiday Contest (please click HERE for details so you can start writing your story :)) and the fact that we will all no doubt be insanely busy with the holidays, there will be no PPBF on Friday December 21 – instead the finalists for the Holiday Contest will be posted that day for you to vote on.

Before we go, I just want to thank Vivian at Positive Parental Participation for giving me the positive Parental Participation Blog Award.


This award means a great deal to me because it recognizes bloggers who “encourage children to love books and reading, believe young children need to play in order to learn, and support positive parental participation” and I am honored that she feels I fit in this category.  Thank you so much, Vivian!  Vivian’s blog, and her book Show Me How, are wonderful resources for parents, and I encourage anyone who isn’t familiar with her to go see all she has to offer!


I can’t wait to see what fabulous books everyone posts this week!  PPBF bloggers, please put your post-specific link below because ready or not, here we come 🙂

Have a great weekend everybody! 🙂

52 thoughts on “Perfect Picture Book Friday – Rocking Horse Christmas

  1. Rhythm says:

    Congratulations on your award! It is well deserved! I really like your book choice. It looks and sounds like such a lovely book. I like stories about special friends that are rediscovered. Thank you for sharing!

  2. Angela Brown says:

    Susanna, your award is well earned. Your books are wonderful and your blog speaks to your nature of nurturing positiveness, shining brightly with your words.

    I enjoyed to PPBF choice. The line you highlighted gave me a heartwarming moment, that moment of seeing something thought old renewed. Beautiful.

  3. Robyn Campbell says:

    Congrads pal! You definitely deserve that award. You are our award. Thanks for all the giving back you do. And this is my kind of story. A horse and some warm and cozy. I have to have it! Thanks for sharing.

  4. Joanna Marple says:

    I immediately thought of the Velveteen Rabbit before you wrote it. Gee what a tear-jerker. Congrats on your well-deserved award.

  5. Kirsten Larson says:

    I am so knee-deep in Magic Treehouse, that I had no idea Mary Pope Osborne had written anything else. To show you my age (or lack thereof, hee, hee), I was thinking this story reminds me of the Toy Story franchise.

  6. Julie Rowan-Zoch says:

    Congrats on your award – you sure earned it! The book PPB looks lovely – I like how the elves look like mini Santas! Will be on the lookout for this one!

  7. Kim MacPherson says:

    Congratulations on the award, Susanna! And, oh my goodness, but I got totally vaklempt reading that one line, too! How can anyone NOT tear up when reading that?!

  8. Patricia Nozell says:

    I teared up @ your synopsis! Definitely my kind of book & from the era when I had a young lad in the house, too (but we were in England then, which is why this book isn't on my shelf yet). I thought of the Velveteen Rabbit right away, too; our all-time favorite – even read at our wedding eons ago.

    Thanks so much for reviewing this book, Susanna, and congratulations on the award.

  9. Beth Stilborn says:

    Just your post about that lovely-sounding book has tears rolling down my cheeks. I know I'd love the book — but obviously I need to have a good stock of tissues on hand before I read it.

    I went the Seuss route today, with “Happy Birthday to You!” for reasons you will understand… 😉

  10. Patricia Tilton says:

    Oh, what a heartwarming book! I love this theme. And, that the toy is discovered by another generation. Beautiful story and illustrations!
    Congratulations on the award Susanna!

  11. nrhatch says:

    Susanna ~ This morning, I used the $15 Amazon Gift Card I won in the Halloweensie Contest to buy (1) The Muppets Christmas Carol DVD and (2) The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins. THANKS AGAIN!

    You rock!

  12. Laura Miller says:

    Susanna, this sounds like a wonderful book I need to add to my collection. I love Velveteen Rabbit. I also used to think my toys came to life whenever we left the house-and I cried when my mom through out my 11 yr old stuffed dog when I was 12.

  13. Alarna Rose Gray says:

    This sounds like the perfect, heart warming Christmas story, Susanna. Also, I want to tell you, your picture books look wonderful! Especially love the trailer for Can't Sleep Without Sheep 🙂

  14. pennyklostermann says:

    Rocking Horse Christmas sounds so sweet. I just put it on hold at my library. I hope that it's available before Christmas! It will add to the holiday spirit.
    Congratulations on your award. You certainly deserve it!

  15. Susanna Leonard Hill says:

    I'm so glad you like the look of this book Patricia. It's one of my favorites – very different from many of the more humorous Christmas titles, not overtly religious (except it does mention Christmas) but full of the spirit of the holidays.

  16. Susanna Leonard Hill says:

    Thank you, Angela. What a lovely and heartwarming comment – you're very sweet and I really appreciate it 🙂 And the book is a lovely one – a great lesson for writers in how she puts so much into so little.

  17. Grade ONEderful says:

    Oh my goodness! I know for sure I would cry reading this book. It sounds so very beautiful though. I'm going to look for it in the library. Thank you, Susanna!

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