The main character in the story “Horsing Around In The Town Of Gold Hill” is a horse! She befriends several wild animal characters that are native to the area. All of the animal characters have the ability to naturally spark wonder in children and provide potential for beautiful, funny and engaging illustrations specific to Gold Hill. Animals as characters come with pre-conceived dispositions, which is helpful when trying to minimize lengthy personality descriptions. For example, we understand from an early age that owls are wise, foxes are clever, etc… It’s a simplified way of making the characters’ traits relatable and familiar to young children. Each of the animal characters embodies physical traits that represent the five human senses we use to interpret the world around us: hearing, smell, taste, touch and sight. They encourage your child’s creativity with multiple prompts to trigger their curiosity and engage their senses. What we can do with the information we gather from our senses is a strong theme in the story.
As the book’s author, I see a little of myself in all of the story’s characters. The character I identify with most, though, is probably the squirrel. The squirrel’s role in this story is really to help the horse get out of her own way, to encourage her to observe, pay attention, and think creatively. My experiences as camp counselor, art teacher, and now author, I too, have embraced a similar role.
Many children grow into adulthood unaware of their surroundings. To eventually perceive and understand what they couldn’t previously (due to a lack of maturity, perspective, experience, etc…) allows them to gain a better understanding of the world around them as well as their place within it. It’s a conscious choice to be engaged in life rather than merely coasting by on auto-pilot. And I believe it’s important to expand one’s boundaries of community to include the land and its wild inhabitants. Throughout the story, the animal characters teach us that our limitations are mostly self-imposed and self-perpetuated. Self-limiting behaviors prevent us from fully experiencing our lives and living up to our potentials. So, when one believes that they cannot do something, it restricts them from ever doing or trying it. The lesson I hope readers take away from this book is the whole world benefits when we stop self-limiting our creativity.