Terrible Horses


Celebrated Deaf poet Raymond Antrobus originally resisted the idea of writing children’s books because of what he called “snobbery” in a 2021 interview with The Guardian. Thankfully, Antrobus came to see the immense importance of these stories, and released a tremendous debut picture book, Can Bears Ski? Readers will delight at his latest offering, Terrible Horses, which features a protagonist with hearing aids who fights with his older, much cooler sister. 

The picture book form is a wonderful vehicle for Antrobus’ poetry, which shines through each lovely line in the use of poetic devices such as alliteration and repetition. Despite these higher-level literary elements, the narrative is instantly relatable, conveying the tensions of sibling rivalry and all the associated emotions. Declarative sentences combine to form poetic yet authentically childlike stanzas that sing. Though Terrible Horses is not overtly about the Deaf experience, Antrobus provides thoughtful and gentle representation by expressing the little brother’s unique type of isolation. 

Ken Wilson-Max’s whimsical mixed media illustrations unite with Antrobus’ careful word choice to show the explosiveness of the siblings’ fights and the healing power of words as the protagonist retreats to write “stories about terrible horses” in which he is a lonely little pony “that can’t compete / that can’t speak / that can’t sleep.” These stories comfort the young narrator, but they also serve to heal the sibling relationship once his sister reads them and starts to better understand her little brother. The energy of Wilson-Max’s colorful line drawing enhances this rich story, creating the perfect combination for children and their caregivers and storytellers.

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