Review Blog

Jul 03 2013

Lightning Jack by Glenda Millard

cover image

Ill. by Patricia Mullins. Scholastic, 2012.ISBN 978 1 74169 391 1.
(Age: 7+) Highly recommended. Picture book. Poetry. Horses. Imagination. In rhyming stanzas the story is told of Lightning Jack, a magnificent black horse, a gallant, daring and brave horse, that Sam Tulley wants to ride.  He mounts the horse and uses him to round up the cattle, stampeding down the hillside, and seen by the overseer, he is offered five hundred steer if he will sell his horse. The offer is rejected as Sam tells him it is not his horse to sell, nor the man's to buy. Sam and his horse travel far and wide, surveying the countryside, being part of other stories, ones in which horses have a place. So he brings rain to the parched earth near a farmstead, leaps over Dead Man's Leap when an armour plated outlaw wants the horse, and rides with Phar Lap as he wins a race.
Each episode in Lightning Jack's life is magnificently visualised with Patricia Mullins' wonderful tissue paper images, using Japanese and Indian paper to create the most striking of illustrations. Sam is astride the horse as it rears across the pages, buffetting the cattle as he steers them from a stampede, flying out of the clouds as he brings rain, and winning with Phar Lap by his side.
Sam's imagination leaps as he rides his midnight horse, the repetition of the last line becoming a refrain through the text which is alive with imagery, alliteration, metaphor and simile, the richness of the text and the illustration complimenting each other to perfection.
This a wonderful book to share, reading it aloud, while the students repeat the refrain, a book to use to talk about imagination, or horses, or incidents in Australian history in which horses have played a part, and reading parts of The man from Snowy River for comparison. Students will love to look more closely at the illustrations and see how Mullins has created the image represented on the pages, perhaps trying the technique for themselves.
Fran Knight

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