age range: 3-5 years
Marcy Campbell’s website
Chloe is stubborn and willful, but she listens and learns and understands. Her first-person narration is realistic, witty and endearing. Chloe wants a series. This heroine is ready for more adventures.
—The New York Times
Affecting…Readers who loved Eleanor Estes’ 1994 book The Hundred Dresses will suspect the painful truth behind the horse-owning boasts of a day-dreamer named Adrian Simcox. And they will understand the misplaced indignation of the narrator, Chloe. Empathetic readers…will be rooting for Chloe’s mother who shows how a decent person behaves with someone who has less of almost everything—except imagination.
—Wall Street Journal
Please tell us about your book.
Adrian Simcox Does NOT Have a Horse is my debut picture book, illustrated by the incredibly talented Corinna Luyken. I was so fortunate to work with Corinna and with the wonderful team at Penguin/Dial on my first book!
The story follows the narrator, Chloe, who is quite sure that her classmate Adrian does not have a horse, even though Adrian tells anyone who will listen that he has the most beautiful horse anywhere. Chloe knows having a horse is expensive, and Adrian’s family can’t afford one, nor would they have any place to keep it. What Adrian does have, however, is a huge imagination, and after Chloe’s mom stealthily organizes a meet-up between the kids, Chloe begins to see that, appreciate it, and even share in Adrian’s imagination. In the end, Chloe learns that it’s sometimes better to be kind than to be right.
What inspired you to write this story?
I did know a boy when I was a kid who said he had a horse, but he said he had a lot of things, and his family seemed to be doing well financially, so there was probably some truth to his boasting. I remember, however, that I thought he was lying about the horse in particular. That childhood memory became one line in a list of picture book ideas I started keeping after having my own kids. “Boy says he has a horse and girl doesn’t believe him.” Also, in the last few years, I’ve put in a lot of time volunteering at my kids’ public elementary school, which has a high percentage of children with economic need, and I believe those experiences helped shape the story beyond just a couple of kids arguing about a horse and toward issues of class and empathy.
What are some special challenges associated with fictionalizing a true story?
The only thing I took from real life was the idea of a boy saying he has a horse, when he doesn’t (at least not a real one). Adrian’s imaginary horse is so vivid that it’s very real to him, and eventually to Chloe as well!
Could you share with readers how the book evolved?
My first draft of the book was way too long. I’d never tried writing a picture book before, and so someone had to kindly point out to me that I didn’t leave any room for the illustrator in my text. It was a really new experience for me to not describe every little detail, as I had done for years while writing adult fiction. I cut that original draft almost in half, and that’s the draft I sent to Steven Malk at Writers House, who signed me on as a client and quickly sold the book. The text didn’t change very much throughout the production process; however, we (me and my editor Namrata Tripathi, and Corinna, and the art director Lily Malcom) did spend a lot of time thinking about that first spread, in terms of both the text and art. The original version left too much room for misinterpretation, and I’m much happier with it now. For me, the real evolution took place with the addition of Corinna’s art, which gave the book a whole new layer of meaning that went way beyond my expectations. When I first saw Corinna’s sketch of Adrian, and when I saw how she created the horse from negative space, I thought she’d nailed it.
What topics does your book touch upon that would make it a perfect fit for the classroom?
There are kids in every classroom who really like to police the other kids, calling them out, to teachers and peers, when they do something wrong. These kids, like Chloe, just crave vindication. I hope kids who read the book will see that proving someone wrong might feel good in the moment, but doesn’t often last. Being kind doesn’t cost much, but the rewards for the people, on both the giving and receiving end, can last a long time.